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.