Pope Francis wasn't using it much. So the Vatican's helipad will be serving a new customer: Rome's pediatric hospital.
The Vatican has signed an agreement to let the facility use the pope's helipad for emergency transport of patients and organs around the clock.
The Holy See-owned Bambino Gesu Hospital, Europe's largest pediatric facility and research center, is just up the hill from the Vatican.
In a written statement, hospital President Mariella Enoc said using the Vatican's helipad will greatly reduce transport time, “contributing in many cases to saving the lives of children.”
Enoc said a key player in the deal was Domenico Giani, the pope's chief bodyguard, who is known for the gentle way he holds children up to the pope to be kissed whenever Francis is out in public.
Francis was “overjoyed” by the agreement, according to the statement.
Francis rarely uses the helipad, which is in the Vatican gardens. Previous popes would frequently fly by helicopter to go back and forth from the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo. Francis has decided not to use the estate, preferring to spend his summers in the same Vatican hotel where he lives.