The birth ofUCBM

In 1988, Mons. Álvaro del Portillo, Prelate of Opus Dei, spoke to a group of professional members of the Prelature of Opus Dei, asking for the realization of a dream of St. Josemaría: a university clinic in Rome capable of combining medical and scientific attention to the patient as a person, to academic training, the Christian spirit of service. In September he asked to set up a first study group, which would take the name of "think tank", and a few months later the first operational meetings began to study the feasibility of the project.

Don Álvaro cared not only that the sick received the best care, but that this was done with humanity. He encouraged the birth ofUniversità Campus Bio-Medico di Roma and then closely followed the people involved in studying its implementation. For this reason he urged doctors, nurses and all University staff to adopt a particular working style: "You want the doctrine and love of Christ to orient and inform human society more profoundly, and concretely the exercise of the very noble medical and nursing professions: without the guidance of this doctrine and this love, they easily become cold and blind techniques which, instead of serving the good of men, can be transformed – unfortunately there is no lack of eloquent examples, even today – into realities contrary to the life and dignity of man".

At the center of his pastoral concern were, no less, the students. University training had to favor the harmonious growth of the whole person, combine the highest cultural and scientific level with a sense of responsibility for the ethical implications of the future profession. «This teaching and scientific research center will undertake to offer particular attention to the training of doctors and nurses so that, in addition to working well, with proven professional and technical competence, they inspire their activity by true rectitude of intention and a true spirit of service".

“In a hospital – Don Álvaro affirmed – the Church is not present only thanks to the chaplain: it also acts through the faithful who, like doctors or nurses, try to provide a good professional service and delicate human attention to patients".

And about academia: "The university that institutionally proposes to offer a Christian contribution to the development of culture will have to ensure that all knowledge converges in selfless service to the person and therefore to society".

Don Álvaro in the memories of who was there

Of the 'think tank', the first study group that contributed to the birth of theUCBM, they were part of Paolo Arullani, Luigi Altomare, Giordano Dicuonzo and José María Araquistain, who remember Don Álvaro with these words:

  • Paolo Arullani, Honorary President UCBM: It was September 1988, I was in Urio, on Lake Como, to participate in some retreat days. Don Álvaro visited us and asked me during a conversation with several people if we had never thought about building a hospital in Rome. Not more than a week passed and he returned to the subject, asking me what we had decided. Not “thought”, but “decided”! I understood then that it wasn't simply an idea. I was living in Milan at the time. In Rome Luigi Altomare was soon assigned to follow the program closely, together with José María Araquistain. At the beginning I went to Rome specifically for the meetings of the so-called "Pensatoio".
  • Luigi Deep sea: On 1 December 1988 there was the first meeting of the "Pensitoio". I keep the notes from that meeting with Paolo Arullani and Araquistain. Seeing them again, it strikes me how the project was already well outlined then. The previous September, in Urio, Don Álvaro had given us some suggestions: «Create a clinic with university characteristics in Rome... Sick people treated like people... a nursing school should be opened from the beginning». A few weeks later, on the occasion of the exchange of Christmas greetings, Don Álvaro returned to the work we were doing and, with reference to his predecessor, Saint Josemaría, told us: «The founder prayed a lot, because in all the big cities, and in concrete here in Rome, there were well-kept hospitals, permeated by the Spirit of the Work". Subsequently, Giordano Dicuonzo and Michele Crudele joined us in the "Pensatoio".
  • José María Araquistain, Cardiologist and Internist, Parioli Medical Center, Rome: As Don Álvaro's personal doctor, I was the member of the "Pensitoio" who could have had some more opportunities to meet him. So I also acted as an emissary and brought him the folders with all the documents that we developed on the project over time. He was pleased to receive them personally and reminded me that he was very keen that the Bio-Medical Campus start small and have time to grow well. He was also very keen that we visit the Pamplona Clinic and attingWe learned from that experience born many years earlier. Just upon returning from one of these trips he immediately asked me how some of the people hospitalized there were doing. Despite all the commitments he had in the world government of the Work, he was always very attentive to all people.

The inauguration ofUCBM

It was Monsignor Álvaro del Portillo who celebrated the Holy Mass on the occasion of the inauguration of the first Academic Year (1993/1994) of theUniversità Campus Bio-Medico di Roma. The homily contains some of the most significant messages addressed in public by the Prelate to those present at the time and to those who would share the life of the Campus Bio-Medico University in subsequent years.

“How many tens of thousands of people can this message of peace reach, and how much good can you do to man and society by committing yourselves with all your strength to this enterprise! It is born small, but it is already large, because you wish to carry it out with a big heart, to the measure of the heart of Christ!».

"I recommend that you work in a spirit of unity and understanding, with optimism: in this way you will overcome obstacles with God's help, you will be happy and - what is even more important - you will sanctify yourselves and help others to sanctify themselves, because you will be practicing the commandment of love".