The Camillians or Clerics Regular, Ministers to the Sick (Latin: Clerci Regulari Ministeri Infirmaribus) are a Roman Catholic religious order, founded in 1582 by St. Camillus de Lellis (1550-1614). A large red cross was chosen by the founder as the distinguishing badge for the members of the Order to wear upon their black cassocks, which was later adopted as the international symbol of medical care. The founder taught his volunteers that the "hospital was a house of God, a garden where the voices of the sick were music from heaven". They use the postnominal initials of M.I.
De Lellis lived much of his early life as a soldier, following his father's path. When his regiment was disbanded, he happened to find work as a laborer for a Capuchin friary. One of the friars led him to a religious conversion, after which he sought admission to the Capuchin Order.
The Capuchins were willing to accept de Lellis as a candidate. He had sustained a leg wound, however, in the course of his military career, which would not heal. After examination, it was declared incurable by physicians. He then moved to Rome, where he took up residence in a hospital dedicated to the care of the incurably ill. As he progressed in his spiritual life, he noticed the poor care given the patients by the attendants of the hospital.
De Lellis invited some young men he had come to know through his religious circles to care for the patients for a more concrete expression of their faith. They took up his challenge and demonstrated a level of commitment, which caused him to consider forming a religious community to provide this care for the sick. He received Holy Orders to this end, and both he and his disciples took religious vows.
De Lellis thereby established the Order of Clerics Regular, Ministers to the Sick. His experience in wars led him to establish a group of health care workers who would assist soldiers on the battlefield. The large, red cross on their religious habits, which they adopted as a sign of their vocation to medical care, remains a symbol of the Order. Camillians today continue to identify themselves with this emblem on their habits, a symbol universally recognized today as the sign of charity and service. This was the original Red Cross, hundreds of years before the International Red Cross was formed.
During the Battle of Canizza in 1601, while Camillians were busily occupied with the wounded, the tent in which they were tending to the sick and in which they had all of their equipment and supplies was completely destroyed and burned to the ground. Everything in the tent was destroyed, except for the red cross of the habit belonging to one of the Camillians who was ministering to the wounded on the battlefield. This event was taken by the community as manifesting divine approval of the Red Cross of St. Camillus.
Members of the Order also devoted themselves to victims of the bubonic plague. It was due to the efforts of the Brothers and alleged supernatural healings by de Lellis that the people of Rome credited De Lellis with ridding the city of a great plague and the subsequent famine. For a time, he became known as the "Saint of Rome".
The Very Reverend Father Renato Salvatore, M.I., is the current Superior General, as of September 2012. He was immediately named by Pope Benedict XVI to serve as one of the papally-appointed, non-episcopal, participants, representing the Church's religious orders, for the October 2012 13th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization. Salvatore was arrested in November 2013 and charged with unlawfully detaining two priests to prevent them voting against him in the election for the Superior General.
As of 2006, the Order of Clerks Regular Ministers of the Sick is divided into Ecclesiastical Provinces (the main level of geographical jurisdictions), some of which have Delegations and/or Foundations in other continents; they are distributed geographically as follows: Europe is divided into 11 Provinces (four of which are in Italy), and four Foundations; Asia into one Province, three Delegations and four Foundations; Africa into two Delegations and five Foundations; Australia into one Delegation.
- Anglo-Irish Province
- Austrian Province
- Brazilian Province
- Dutch Province
- French Province
- German Province
- Lombard-Venetian Province (central and eastern parts of northern Italy, the former Austrian part)
- North-American Province
- Piedmontese Province (north western Italy)
- The Philippine Province with Taiwan and Australia as Delegations (known earlier as the Far East Province)
- Polish Province
- Roman Province
- Sicilian-Neapolitan Province (southern Italy)
- Spanish Province
Sources and references
- Website of the Camillan Fathers
- Tom Kington, "Head of Italian religious order held in corruption inquiry", The Guardian, 7 November 2013