Saving Catholic Hospitals: Pope Francis’s Wager

October 25, 2021
An operating room in Quebec, around 1939

Pope Francis has just created a new entity responsible for saving Catholic hospitals, whose financial situation was severely damaged in 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 6,000 healthcare establishments have been affected worldwide.

Dealing with the difficult financial situation of Catholic hospitals: a dizzying task already reported in 2010 by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, then Secretary of State, who was considering buying out the ailing establishments. The project never came to fruition.

Since then, the Covid-19 health crisis has passed through, further weakening Catholic hospitals which are at  risk of going out of business and are being bought by private or public entities, sometimes less careful to dispense care in accordance with Catholic morality.

It is for this reason that Pope Francis has just canonically erected, by a decree called a chirograph made public on October 6, 2021, the Catholic Health Foundation, an organization which must “offer financial support to health structures linked to the Church,” explains the Roman pontiff.

The new Vatican Foundation, he continues, is “an entity linked to the Holy See” placed directly under the supervision of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA).

It is therefore up to Msgr. Nunzio Galantino, current president of APSA, to lead the new Foundation.

The role of the prelate will be to “support and revamp health facilities owned or managed by ecclesial bodies, finding the necessary financial sources, including ones from private donors and public and private institutions. The Foundation will be able to carry out any type of operation allowed by the legislation of the country in which these health facilities operate while complying with the teachings of the Social Doctrine of the Church and the principles of economic sustainability,” specifies the pontifical chirograph decree.

“We want to avoid the risk of giving the impression that these institutions are elitist and are reducing treatment to all and for all,” Archbishop Galantino explained to Vatican News.

The new director of the Catholic Health Foundation has his work cut out for him: there are more than 6,000 Catholic hospitals around the world, including 102 in Italy, mainly in the north, in Lombardy and Lazio.

The new foundation takes over the functions of the former Pontifical Commission for Activities in the Health Sector of Public Legal Entities of the Church, established in 2015 by the current Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

It had been renewed in June 2020 with a deadline in June 2023: this was without counting the impatience of the Roman pontiff with the reforms and the necessities of the moment.