Rome photo show spotlights hospital reformer St Camillo

Legacy of sixteenth-century saint captured in pictures

Rome photo show spotlights hospital reformer St Camillo

(By Kate Carlisle) Rome, May 28 - Sixteenth-century Saint Camillo was a hands-on man, it is said. Running back and forth between Rome's hospitals to help the sick and injured, legend has it that the mercenary-soldier-turned-saint personally rescued stranded men and women from the flooded Tiber river by throwing them over his shoulder two at a time. A stunning work by the French painter Pierre Subleyras (1746), 'St Camillo de Lellis Saves the Drowning from the Tiber', shows the gigantic saint carrying a man on his back effortlessly while reaching down to scoop up another. A month-long exhibition at in the Brasini wing of Rome's Vittoriano monument called 'Presenze' (Presence) celebrates Camillo's legacy which continues in the work of 'Camilliani' priests, missionaries and layman around the world. The exhibit that includes Subleyras' painting, is comprised of numerous photos, both present day and historical, showing not only the order's clergy at work, and also the faces and lives of those assisted. Beyond the muscle he put into his works that contributed to his canonization in 1746, Camillo is credited with having sparked major changes in the health care of the 1500s that revolutionized the way the ill and injured were treated and paved the way for today's hospital system. "What many don't know is that during St Camillo's times, patients were not admitted into Rome's hospitals without first confessing. Even then, they could be refused," Father Eugenio Sapori told ANSA at the show's opening. "Instead, Camillo didn't ask questions or refuse anyone. He rolled up his sleeves and opened the doors to everyone who needed help, indiscriminately," Sapori said. Argentine photographer Guillermo Luna has followed Camilliani clergy around the world since first seeing them work in the ex-Soviet republic of Georgia. "I was struck by the humanity I saw in the priests and their actions. They truly practice what they believe in without limits or exceptions," Luna told ANSA. "Through these shots I tried to capture the essential spirit of the order," Luna said. A series of historic photos recovered recently line the walls of the entry into the larger part of the show, which the runs until June 23. "These photos were identified after they were found by chance, not by the way the monks were dressed, but by the order's distinguishing red cross," Eliana Pavoncella, one of the event's organizers said. Clergy from the order of Camilliani sport a signature red cross that helps them stand out, especially when serving on the front lines of conflicts and war, where they continue to unhesitatingly serve. Indeed, one of the recovered sepia photos shows rows of robed Camilliani, arms crossed, expressions determined, ready to head to the front lines of WWI. Something St Camillo did both as a soldier and then as a mercenary. "St Camillo was gigantic, especially for the time he lived in. He was over six feet tall and extremely powerful," Father Paolo Guarise tells ANSA. But Camillo proved that his strength went beyond the physical. More than 400 years later, the vitality of his message and efforts continues, as the insightful exhibition 'Presenze' shows.

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