18 March 1989

May the Most Holy Virgin, Health of the Sick and Seat of Wisdom, inspire and accompany your work, on which I invoke the heavenly Blessing. On the occasion of the 120th anniversary of the “Bambino Gesù” Children’s Hospital in Rome

1.”Who then is the faithful and wise steward, whom his master will set over his household?” (Lk 12:42).

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, the solemnity of St. Joseph, our thought cannot but turn simultaneously to the Infant Jesus, whom traditional iconography depicts also in the arms of the holy Patriarch.

Therefore it is a beautiful occasion to celebrate with you, in this liturgy, the 120th anniversary of the foundation of your hospital named after the Infant Jesus. It is a hospital built to cure and relieve, by love as well as by dedication, the suffering of little innocent children, so similar in this to the Son of God who became man, an infant like them, subject to suffering.

2.I wish to greet cordially all present, and to express my joy at this meeting which is very significant for me. I greet the President, the administration, the doctors, the Sisters of Charity, the children’s nurses, the auxiliary staff, as well as the relatives of the little patients.

It is an important meeting, as I  said, because you know what a close relationship exists, what analogy, what interchange exists between the priest’s mission on the one hand, and that of the health care worker on the other. In different ways, all are dedicated to the salvation of man: to restoring him to health, freeing him from evil, suffering and death, promoting his life, well-being and happiness. How much more striking is this analogy, if we consider that the healing of these little patients requires to an even greater degree virtues of self-sacrifice, diligence, delicacy, compassion and mercy, which the doctor and the priest should have in common! For this reason, dear brothers and sisters, I must tell you that your hospital is very dear to me; for 120 years this institution has carried out its charitable wok.

3.In the Opening Prayer of the Mass we recalled that God wished to place “the beginnings of our salvation under Joseph’s watchful care”. What are these “beginnings of our salvation”? They are the earthly life of the Child Jesus; a life which for thirty years he lived in the intimacy of the home, among the  simple people of his time, lovingly dedicated, certainly, to good works, but without having the splendour of his divinity shine out above his normal human behaviour. What love and respect Jesus showed during those years; afterwards in his public ministry he would publicly recall the commandment of the Decalogue to honour one’s father and mother! With what care and dedication did Joseph and Mary follow Jesus’ growth “in wisdom and in stature, an in favour with God and man” (Lk 2:52).

The life of every baptized child is also a participation in Christ’s redemption. For this also and especially, the Church is “a faithful guardian of God’s mysteries”, in the above-mentioned prayer we invoked St. Joseph’s intercession for this intention.

Especially, if we think of a suffering child, we cannot but think also of the Church’s sharing in Christ’s redemptive suffering.

4.In your delicate profession, doctors, religious, nurses who assist these little children, you will always find in St. Joseph a model, protector and comforter. Place yourselves confidently under his powerful protection; he will teach the noble and supernatural art of enlightening, consoling and comforting these little souls faced with the terrible trial of pain. The holy Carpenter of Nazareth will inspire you in the right words, the smile and the reassuring gesture, the timely and effective help, the keenness of mind to reflect on the mystery of human suffering.

The little children whom you have in your care have been mysteriously called from their earliest years to a hard trial, which also involves you, adults, and poses disturbing questions for you. Faced with the tremendous mystery of pain, even the greatest minds have felt the powerlessness of human limitation. Words seem to fail them. For this very reason  it is necessary that your rely on God’s word; listen to it an make it your own, “hoping against hope”, as St. Paul says in the Letter to the Romans (4:18). It is necessary to have St. Joseph’s docility in hearing and putting into practice the inspiration of  the Spirit of wisdom; it is necessary to hear “the voice of the angel”.

5.I hope that children’s hospitals such as yours will  continue to be multiplied. As you know, a vast number of innocent children throughout the world suffer and also die through lack of hospitals. This certainly is one of the most terrible plagues afflicting modern society: it is an intolerable scandal which  we can never do  enough to remedy. This  most noble ideal, that of bringing aid to sick or needy children, in whatever part of the world they may be, is a cause which should appeal to  the hearts and arouse the energies of many young people and  give meaning to their existence. Many laity and religious devote themselves to this, yet how much more forces are necessary! Therefore, I avail myself of this occasion to launch an appeal to all generous souls: go forward without fear, and  God will give you the hundredfold!

May St. Joseph assist you in your  work,  so  that you can share  with him in the heavenly prize. Dear brothers and sisters, let us all pray to him together, as we implore the Lord in the Prayer over the Gifts in this Mass: “Give us that same fidelity and purity of heart which animated St. Joseph in the service of your only-begotten Son, born of the Virgin Mary”.


John Paul II