A Saint´s Work for the Sick

Interview with Monsignor Riccardo Ruotolo

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SAN GIOVANNI ROTONDO, Italy, JUNE 13, 2002 (ZENIT.orgAvvenire).- Padre Pio left humanity two special gifts: the House for the Relief of Suffering, a center for medical and spiritual assistance in this southern Italian town; and the Prayer Groups scattered throughout the world.

The director of both these legacies today is Monsignor Riccardo Ruotolo. Here, he talks about his experience: «Padre Pio wished to leave the clinic to the Holy See. Padre Pio said, ´If I leave the work in the Pope´s hands I am certain it will not fail.´»

Q: A gift involving commitment …

Monsignor Ruotolo: I knew nothing about hospitals. I said this to Cardinal Giuseppe Caprio when he asked me to come here, on Dec. 15, 1977, to study the situation. I told him I had never even been in San Giovanni Rotondo.

Q: And what did the substitute of the Vatican State secretariat reply to you?

Monsignor Ruotolo: «Good, so you go there with a fresh mind, free of prejudices.» He asked me to make a report in six months. The Holy See had to decide if it was to keep the administration of the House of Relief or hand it over to the regional government.

Q: Were there debts?

Monsignor Ruotolo: Six months later, when I presented the financial report, I had paid those debts and come to an agreement with the region. The then Monsignor Caprio told me: Good. Now go back to San Giovanni Rotondo and continue to work.

Q: You have been there for 25 years.

Monsignor Ruotolo: Providence decides.

Q: And what have you accomplished in these years?

Monsignor Ruotolo: I have tried to respect faithfully Padre Pio´s wish. On May 5, 1957, he expressed in writing the plan, the hope, to double the number of beds. Today the beds have trebled, thanks to the faithful´s donations: There are more than 1,000.

Q: So far as I know, the House of Relief is the only hospital where there are guided tours: from the kitchens to the operating theaters. The visitor can see it all.

Monsignor Ruotolo: It is the first hospital in the south of Italy in terms of attracting patients. Twenty-three percent of those hospitalized and patients come from outside the region, including from the North; especially in the oncological sector, which in addition to 34 beds in the department, has a day-clinic with 20 beds; medical visits, examinations, treatments. We have four nuclear accelerators to shorten the waiting lists.

Q: To shorten the waiting lists?

Monsignor Ruotolo: We are trying to do away with them. I think we are the first hospital in Italy to do so.

Q: Is this due to good administration or to a miracle of Padre Pio?

Monsignor Ruotolo: Listen, that question was already asked of Padre Pio: «When you are no longer here, what will happen to this gigantic work?» his friends would ask him. And he would answer: «When I am no longer here, I will pray to Providence, who will help you more and better than at present.»

Q: Is there some evidence of this intervention?

Monsignor Ruotolo: Who knows, perhaps Mr. Krupp.

Q: Mr. Krupp?

Monsignor Ruotolo: Gary Krupp, an American Jew from New York, is the intermediary of advanced electromedical equipment: He has sold us nuclear medicine machines, radiology equipment, two new mammographic machines. He says he is «in love» with Padre Pio and gives us a hand.

Q: A hand?

Monsignor Ruotolo: For example, he gave us a discount of more than $1 million on the magnetic resonance machine. He has often said publicly that he is «in love» with Padre Pio.

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