By Anne Kurian-Montabone

On December 4, 2020, the Vatican’s firemen celebrated the feast of Saint Barbara, Patroness of the Corps, instituted by Pius XII in 1941.

According to L’Osservatore Romano, Father Franco Fontana, chaplain of the Management of the Civil Security and Protection Services, encouraged them to have “courage,” “perseverance” and “vigilance” in order to render “a true service of love.”

On celebrating Mass in the Governorate’s chapel, he stressed in his homily that God speaks through his Saints, who are “living pages” of his Gospel. He hailed Saint Barbara’s courage, exposing “her life in defense of man.”

At present, there are about thirty Vatican firemen. Besides their urgent interventions, they ensure the maintenance of the anti-fire systems in the Vatican and in its extra-territorial properties.

According to the Website of the Conference of the Bishops of France, Barbara was a 3rd-century martyr in Nicomedia. Among the legends is that she refused to offer incense to the Emperor or that her father locked her in a tower to force her to marry a pagan, which she refused to do and was decapitated.

Her executioner having been struck by lightning, popular devotion invokes her against the dangers of sudden death, caused by fire or electricity, making her the Protectress of arquebusiers, gunners, artificers, and firemen.

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