Thousands of cardiologists and other attendees at the ESC Congress 2016 got to meet Pope Francis, who told them he marveled at the science and human mystery of the heart.
The European Society of Cardiology’s ESC Congress 2016 drew to an emotional close in Rome, Italy this afternoon as thousands of cardiologists, ESC staff, and other meeting attendees turned out to welcome Pope Francis to the meeting venue, Fiera di Roma.
On a second-floor promenade that stretched from one end of the sprawling center to the other, eyed carefully by scores of uniformed and plain-clothes police and Vatican security, the crowd pressed again metal barriers. They broke into cheers, applause, and cries of “Bravo Papa” as his white "Popemobile" golf cart, surrounded by security officers, rolled along the walkway. (Photos by Gale Scott)
Along the way he kissed at least one baby, a child handed over the barriers.
After mounting a red carpeted platform at the end of the walkway, Pope Francis took the stage and gave speech that stressed the intersection of science and mystery in the human heart.
“You look after the heart,” the Pope said, speaking in Italian, “How much symbolism is enshrined in this word.”
He continued, “How many hopes are contained in this human organ. In your hands you hold the beating core of the human body, and as such your responsibility is very great. I am sure that as you find yourselves before this book of life with its many pages yet to be discovered, you are filled with trepidation and awe.”
He went on to stress his appreciation for the care and research being done “So that everyone may receive relief from their suffering, a greater quality of life, and an increasing sense of hope.”
The pontiff also urged the physicians to care for the poor with compassion.
“When man is viewed in his totality - allow me to emphasize this point - we are able to have a profound understanding of the poorest, those most in need, and the marginalized,“ he said.
He concluded, “With these sentiments, I renew my appreciation for your work. I ask the Lord to bless your research and medical care, so that everyone may receive relief from their suffering, a greater quality of life and an increasing sense of hope.”
The ESC officials also made brief speeches of welcome, presenting the Pope with a trophy-like cross of mirrored red and silver hearts, and a stethoscope which he held up to pose briefly for photographers.
A line of carefully selected guests were then introduced to the Pope one by one, as onlookers stood on chairs and railings to get better cell phone photos.
Some guests kissed the Pope’s ring, and genuflected, others gave handshakes, and many appeared to be weeping, overcome by the occasion.
The entire event took about 45 minutes and as the Pope was ushered to his vehicle, the physicians were still waving, cheering and going through contortions to try for selfies with the pontiff in the background.
ESC’s president Fausto Pinto, MD said in his introduction that the ESC and the Vatican share goals of alleviating suffering and promoting health lifestyles as well as “delivering care to those in need and helping people live more productive lives.”
Pinto earlier said he had personally invited the Pontiff to attend and that his acceptance was “a very great honor.”