VATICAN CITY (CNS) — A 51-year-old man was severely injured after he set himself on fire in St. Peter’s Square.
The unidentified man doused himself with gasoline he had carried in a bottle and then lit himself aflame at the end of the colonnade near Piazza Pio XII at 8:30 in the morning Dec. 19.
A Jesuit priest on his way to work at the Vatican was the first passer-by to come to the man’s aid, according to a written statement from Italian police that was then distributed by the Vatican press hall.
The priest tried to smother the flames with his cloak and jacket. Two Italian police agents on duty at the square went to the scene and used a blanket and fire extinguisher to put out the fire.
The man was hospitalized with severe burns on his upper body and the two agents were treated and released for “respiratory problems and burns to the hands,” the statement said.
The statement said a piece of paper was found nearby that had the phone number of the man’s daughter. It added that the motive for the man’s actions was unknown.
The case was in the hands of the Italian authorities because security and law enforcement in St. Peter’s Square are the responsibility of the Italian police.
In 1998, a 40-year-old Italian man set himself on fire with gasoline in the square on an early morning in mid-January. The man died less than two weeks later after suffering from third-degree burns over 90 percent of his body.
There was another moment of tension Dec. 19, a few hours after the burning incident, when an unidentified woman was escorted away by police from outside the Vatican press hall, several yards from the square. The blond-haired woman was screaming in what some bystanders said seemed to be a Slavic language.
Help us keep you informed -- CatholicPhilly.com can't do it without youDuring CatholicPhilly.com's fall donation campaign, you have a way to help us deliver the kind of news you need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live. Every household's costs keep rising, and we're no different. We make sure your dollars in any amount go a long way toward continuing our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month. Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can -- a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community.
Make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Or by credit card here: