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Meet the pharmacist-brother who runs the Vatican drugstore

VATICAN PHARMACY,FARMACIA VATICAN
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Devoted to caring for the sick and the poor, the pharmacist shares how his faith is key to his work.

In a message in anticipation of the 26th World Day of the Sick, celebrated annually on the February 11 feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, the pope paid tribute to the devotion of Catholic healthcare institutions, devoted to both spiritual and physical health.

He also shared his fear of seeing these institutions suffer from current market forces, leading to the alienation of the poor.

In light of this message, I.MEDIA met Brother Binish Mulackal, the young director of the Vatican’s drugstore, to discuss his work and this crucial institution.

With his pen slipped inside a pocket, his pristine white coat, and his bustling manner, there’s nothing that would make you think that the director of the Vatican drugstore is a member of a religious order … however, “I belong to a very busy order,” he explains, whose mission isn’t “prayer alone.”

Like his seven predecessors who headed the Vatican drugstore, the Brother has been a member of the Hospitaller Order of the Brothers of Saint John of God since 1988.

Founded in Granada, Spain, in 1539 by St. John of God, the congregation is devoted to caring for the sick and the poor. Today it welcomes, treats, and accompanies more than a million sick and impoverished people in 454 establishments across 53 countries. They have been carrying out their mission in the Vatican since 1874.

Today the order is made up of 1,100 members. “I’m one of them, simply following the mission entrusted to our congregation,” the Indian pharmacist modestly explains. “I always imagined working in one of the many hospitals of the order, but never would I ever have believed that one day I would be heading the Vatican’s drugstore.”

“I entered the order in 1998 in Kerala, in the province of India,” he explains. “After my studies in 2007, I was sent to Rome, at only 26 years of age, I hadn’t even professed my solemn vows and I didn’t speak Italian,” he recalls.

He embarked on intensive Italian lessons, and was then made vice director in 2011, and eventually Brother Mulackal became director in 2016.

A task which he seems to fulfill with efficiency and professionalism according to the impressive works in progress: extending the premises, modernizing the laboratory, reorganizing the perfumery, concocting new products: tinctures, natural integrators of turmeric, ginger … etc.

2,500 clients a day

The young director is even planning to automate the transportation of products from the stock room to the sales counter. By economizing the pharmacists’ movements, he hopes they can dedicate more time to the client. Equally, he thinks that this could better prevent human error, inevitable with so many visits to the drugstore, which is among the busiest in the world with its 2,500 clients a day.

Meanwhile, despite his obligations, Brother Mulackal still manages to retain a spiritual life. For him faith is firstly an “intensely personal” relationship with God, he reveals, while wearing no distinct symbol or religious clothing.

However, “all my work, all my behavior, stems from my faith.” Faced with so many challenges as the head of the Vatican drugstore, “faith, supported by hope and love, is to me an invaluable aid,” he maintains. Further still, it is “indispensable” for him in being able to live up to his responsibilities.

A faith especially pronounced by the fourth vow specific to the Brothers: serving the sick. It is this distinction which discerns the Vatican drugstore from the secular ones. “What differentiates us is that we never stop collaborating with the numerous institutions within the Church,” to the benefit of the most fragile. “Notably with the chaplaincy, to whom we dispense numerous medications.”

Bearing a trust in God, as well as a “positive” mental attitude, Brother Binish Mulackal feels that he is a humble “instrument of God” who acts on behalf of the sick.

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