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The bells of St Peter’s pealed out over Rome

As Basilica reopens, Order of Malta first-aid clinic provides health checks to visitors 

Rome, 22 May 2020

Order of Malta first aiders, St Peter’s Square

St Peter’s Square was almost deserted on Monday at 7.30 when its bells pealed out for the first Mass since the COVID relaxation in Italy, marking the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Pope St John Paul II. 

Around the Basilica, all precautions were in place, with the Order of Malta’s trained volunteer first-aiders carrying out temperature checks at the entrance. The service is active when the basilica is open – 7.30 am – 6.30 pm, with the volunteers alternating in two shifts each day. 

The First-Aid Post suspended normal activity on 9th March, when lockdown started. Normal service of health assistance is expected to be from 3rd June, when access to St Peter’s Square is permitted, and  a limited number of visitors will be given entry at any one time. 

The Order of Malta’s First-Aid Post, in which 90 volunteers alternate – 40 doctors and nurses and 50 rescuers – was first established for the 1950 Holy Year under the papacy of Pius XII. Since then it has assisted pilgrims 365 days a year in St. Peter’s Square, in close cooperation with the Vatican Directorate of Health and Hygiene.  

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The mission of the Order of Malta is inspired by its tradition of ‘Tuitio Fidei et Obsequium Pauperum', to assist the poor and the sick, and bear witness to the Christian faith.


The Sovereign Order of Malta is a sovereign subject of international law. The Order - which is based in Rome, in via Condotti - has its own Government, an independent magistracy, and bilateral diplomatic relations with 110 countries.


The Order of St John of Jerusalem is one of the oldest institutions of Western and Christian civilisation. Present in Palestine in around 1048, it is a lay religious Order, traditionally of military, chivalrous, noble nature.