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Popes and Gemelli Hospital: a timeline

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FILIPPO MONTEFORTE / AFP

Pope Francis is surrounded by fellow patients to pray the Angelus from a balcony of Gemelli Hospital in July 2021

I.Media - published on 04/01/23

Founded thanks in part to a donation of land by Pope Pius XI, the hospital has received and treated subsequent pontiffs with certain regularity. John Paul II jokingly called it Vatican III.

Nicknamed “Vatican III” by Pope John Paul II, who stayed there many times, the Agostino Gemelli Hospital is once again the center of media attention with the hospitalization of Pope Francis on March 29, 2023. The 86-year-old pontiff was officially treated there for a bronchitis infection. Here is a look at the history of the health care facility and the Holy See. 

1934: Pope Pius XI donated 37 hectares (91 acres) of land on Monte Mario, north of the Vatican, to the theologian and physician Agostino Gemelli for the foundation of the Faculty of Medicine of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart.

1961: The Faculty of Medicine was inaugurated by John XXIII.

1964: The hospital complex received its first patients and was inaugurated by Paul VI.

1976: Paul VI celebrated a Mass in the hospital, hailing it as a “citadel of health studies, of treatments proper to medical science, of human suffering.”

1981: After the attack in St. Peter’s Square, John Paul II was rushed to the hospital where he was operated on. Miraculously saved, according to his doctors, he contracted a cytomegalovirus during a blood transfusion which forced him to return to the hospital to remain there for several weeks.

1992: Pope John Paul II was successfully operated on for an intestinal tumor.

1993: The Polish pontiff stayed briefly in hospital after dislocating his shoulder when he fell down the stairs.

1994: The 264th pope was welcomed into the institution a few days after breaking his hip in another fall.

Poliklinika Gemelli w Rzymie
A statue of St. John Paul II in front of the Gemelli Hospital in Rome

1996: The Polish pontiff underwent successful surgery for appendicitis.

2005: After a week in the hospital for the flu, John Paul II was admitted to Gemelli again on February 24. He remained there for two weeks. He died at the Vatican on April 2 at 9:37 pm.

2012: Pope Benedict XVI comes to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the institution of the Agostino Gemelli Faculty of Medicine and Surgery.

2014: Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI visits his brother, hospitalized at Gemelli. The elder Ratzinger sibling will die in 2020 in Germany. 

2021: Pope Francis is hospitalized on July 4 for the first time since his election in 2013, for a major colon operation. He will stay there for a total of 10 days, longer than originally planned.

2023: Suffering from a respiratory infection, Pope Francis was taken to the hospital on March 29 where doctors diagnosed him with a bronchitis infection. The last communiqué received on March 30 indicated that an antibiotic infusion treatment had “produced the expected effects” and brought about a “marked improvement” in the 86-year-old pontiff’s health.

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