The post of Personal Health Assistant to the Holy Father has been created. Pope Francis appointed Italian Massimiliano Strappetti to the position, the Holy See announced on August 4, 2022.
A nurse and, until this appointment, management coordinator of health and hygiene at the Vatican, he had distinguished himself on the occasion of the sovereign pontiff’s colon operation in July 2021. “He saved my life!,” said Francis after he had undergone the removal of 33 centimeters of intestine at the Gemelli polyclinic in Rome.
The Pope has a personal doctor – traditionally called “archatri” or chief physician – Roberto Bernabei, in office since February 2021. But this new function of personal health assistant complements the medical team in charge of the Holy Father.
“He needs more assiduous assistance,” confided a Vatican source, adding that by creating this new position, “he is formalizing a situation that already existed.” Indeed, Francis had been accompanied by a nurse during his trip to Canada, made almost entirely in a wheelchair due to serious knee complications.
In an interview with the Spanish radio station COPE, published in September 2021, Francis explained the particular role played by Massimiliano Strappetti in the colon procedure: “He said to me: ‘You have to have the operation.’ There were other opinions: ‘It’s better with antibiotics.’”
“But the nurse explained it to me very well. He is a nurse from our health service, from the Vatican Hospital. He has been there for thirty years; he is a very experienced man,” said the sovereign pontiff. Massimiliano Strappetti, 53, worked in the resuscitation department of the Gemelli polyclinic in Rome before joining the Vatican Medical Service.
Active in the voluntary sector, passionate about his work, and extremely reserved, he had assisted John Paul II and Benedict XVI, says Corriere della Sera. A member of the Church Welfare Services, he is dedicated to relieving the suffering of many homeless people living around the Vatican.