Follow-Up: More Details Re. the Burning Man at the Vatican This Morning

The Italian newspaper La Stampa has an update on the sad situation this morning, when a 51-year-old man set himself on fire in St. Peter’s Square.

Apparently the man, a housekeeping attendant at the nearby Sancto Spirito Hospital, may have been involved in a “serious family quarrel” before dousing himself with flammable liquid at the end of the Colonnade, near the corner of Piazza Pio XII.

According to the Vatican Press Office, his condition is “severe.”  He might have died at the scene, though, but for the quick intervention of a Jesuit priest who was arriving for his job at the Curia, and who threw his jacket over the man’s burning torso.  There followed two Vatican Inspectors, who each had a blanket and fire extinguisher in his car—and they were able to suppress the flames, although they suffered burns to the hands and smoke inhalation, which required treatment at the local hospital.

As yet the motive for the action remains unclear.  A Vatican official reported that the man was taken in the police car directly to the hospital, where he remains.  Technically, St. Peter’s Square—at least the round part of it—is Italian territory; so the investigation would be done not by the Vatican Gendarmes or Swiss Guards, but instead by the Italian State.

The Daily Mail has posted a series of copyrighted photos taken immediately after the fire was extinguished.  You can see the photos here.


The Abbey of St. Gall and the Flying Cathedral

From Switzerland, some eye candy for mid-December:

The Abbey of St. Gall, founded by St. Othmar on the spot where St. Gall had his hermitage, contains one of the richest medieval libraries in the world.  The interior of the cathedral is one of Europe’s most important baroque monuments, in the Rococo style with carved polished wood, stucco and an elaborately painted ceiling.  Since 1983 it’s been a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Among the most valuable documents in the library’s collection is a copy of Priscian’s Institutiones grammaticae which contains the poem Is acher in gaíth in-nocht… written in Old Irish.

The library also preserves a unique 9th-century document, known as the Plan of St. Gall, the only surviving major architectural drawing from the roughly 700-year period between the fall of the Roman Empire and the 13th century. The Plan—which was never actually built—was an ideal of what a well-designed and well-supplied monastery should have, as envisioned by one of the synods held at Aachen for the reform of monasticism in the Frankish empire during the early years of emperor Louis the Pious (between 814 and 817).


And here, the “Flying Cathedral”—a hot air balloon designed in 2008 by artists Jan Kaeser and Martin Zimmerman.  The balloon is a replica of the ninth-century Abbey.  Here, it’s shown flying at Ballontage Alpenrheintal, a Swiss hot air balloon festival.


Prayer Need: Man Sets Himself on Fire in St. Peter’s Square

This morning in St. Peter’s Square, a man doused himself with gasoline and set himself on fire.

A Jesuit priest standing nearby attempted to smother the flames with a jacket, before police officers stepped in with fire extinguishers.  The two police officers were successful in extinguishing the flames, but they suffered smoke inhalation and burns to their hands and are now hospitalized for treatment.

The 51-year-old man was treated at a nearby hospital, then transported to a larger one.  He is reported to be suffering from serious burns to his upper body.

In his pocket was a note with his daughter’s contact information; but there has been no explanation for why he set himself afire.

This is not the first time an individual has self-immolated in St. Peter’s Square.  On January 13, 1998, an Italian writer by the name of Alfredo Ormando set himself on fire in the Square to protest the Catholic Church’s opposition to the homosexual lifestyle.  He was rushed to Sant’Eugenio hospital in critical condition, but died eleven days later.


UPDATE:  A sad ending:  The man has since died.  You can read that story here.