Pope Francis has created a new foundation offering financial support to Catholic hospitals, the Vatican announced on Wednesday.
The pope established the foundation with a decree called a chirograph, the Holy See press office said on Oct. 6.
The document, dated Sept. 29, said that the pope had agreed to create the foundation for Catholic healthcare — known in Italian as the Fondazione per la Sanità Cattolica — in response to requests for “direct intervention” by the Vatican to help Catholic institutions.
Vatican News reported that the pope took the step in “the light of financial difficulties” faced by a number of Catholic health facilities run by religious orders, who are sometimes forced to sell them.
The decree explained that the new foundation would operate under the Holy See’s sovereign authority and as an entity of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA), the Vatican’s treasury and sovereign wealth manager.
The foundation “will be subject to the controls and authorizations of the Secretariat for the Economy,” it noted.
At the same time as issuing the chirograph, the pope approved the new body’s statutes.
The Vatican also announced the names of the foundation’s leadership team.
In an Oct. 6 press release, it said that the pope had appointed APSA president Bishop Nunzio Galantino as the foundation’s president and APSA secretary Fabio Gasperini as its secretary general.
Directors of the new institution include Mariella Enoc, president of Rome’s Bambino Gesù Children’s Hospital, and Sergio Alfieri, a surgeon at the Gemelli Hospital who operated on Pope Francis in July.
“In these days of hospitalization, I experienced once again how important is good healthcare that is accessible to all, as there is in Italy and in other countries. Free healthcare, that assures good service, accessible to everyone. This precious benefit must not be lost,” he said.
He added: “In the Church too it happens that at times some healthcare institution, due to poor management, does not do well economically, and the first thought that comes to mind is to sell it. But vocation in the Church is not to have money; it is to offer service, and service is always freely given. Do not forget this: saving free institutions.”
Vatican News said that the foundation would “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.”
It added that it would help Catholic healthcare institutions facing financial distress to “avoid hurried decisions.”
Galantino told Vatican News: “We want to avoid the risk of giving the impression that these institutions are elitist and are reducing treatment to all and for all.”