It was November 17, 2012, when Pope Benedict XVI, who died last December 31, launched this strong warning speaking at the Conference “The Hospital, a place of evangelization: human and spiritual mission” promoted by the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers. In that case as well, the Pope’s words had as their historical framework a moment of economic crisis “which takes resources away from health care”. The appeal was to apply “the principle of subsidiarity and that of solidarity also in the sphere of health policies”.
03 JAN –
Health does not become “a simple commodity subject to the laws of the market, therefore a good reserved for the few”. It was November 17, 2012, when Pope Benedict XVI, speaking at the Conference “The Hospital, a place of evangelization: human and spiritual mission” promoted by the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, he issued this warning to those present in a context of economic crisis “which takes resources away from health protection”.
The message of the Pope emeritus, who died last December 31, was clear and strong: hospitals and care facilities “must rethink their role” to ensure that health continues to be a “universal good to be ensured and defended”. And this because “the particular attention due to the dignity of the suffering person can never be forgotten, also applying the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity in the context of health policies”.
Below is the complete text of the speech given by Pope Benedict XVI on that occasion.
“The Church always addresses with the same spirit of fraternal sharing those who experience pain, animated by the Spirit of the One who, with the power of love, has restored meaning and dignity to the mystery of suffering. To these people the Second Vatican Council he said: you are “neither abandoned nor useless”, because, united to the Cross of Christ, you contribute to his saving work (cf. Message to the poor, the sick and the sufferingDecember 8, 1965). And with the same accents of hope, the Church also challenges health care professionals and volunteers. Yours is a singular vocation which requires study, sensitivity and experience. However, those who choose to work in the world of suffering living their activity as a “human and spiritual mission” are required to have further competence, which goes beyond academic qualifications. It is a question of the “Christian science of suffering”, explicitly indicated by the Council as “the only truth capable of responding to the mystery of suffering” and of bringing to those in sickness “relief without illusions”: “It is not in our power – says the Council – to obtain bodily health for you, nor the diminution of your physical pains… However, we have something more precious and more profound to give you… Christ did not suppress suffering; he didn’t even want to reveal the whole mystery to us: he took it upon himself, and this is enough for us to understand its full value »(ibid.). Of this “Christian science of suffering” be qualified experts! Your being fearlessly Catholic gives you greater responsibility in society and in the Church: it is a matter of a true vocation, as recently testified by exemplary figures such as St. Giuseppe Moscati, St. Riccardo Pampuri, St. Gianna Beretta Molla, St. Anna Schäffer and the Servant of God Jérôme Lejeune.
This is a commitment to new evangelization even in times of economic crisis which takes resources away from health protection. Precisely in this context, hospitals and care facilities must rethink their role to prevent health, rather than a universal good to be ensured and defended, from becoming a mere “commodity” subject to the laws of the market, therefore a good reserved for the few. The particular attention due to the dignity of the suffering person can never be forgotten, also by applying the principles of subsidiarity and that of solidarity in the context of health policies (cf. Caritas in veritate58).
Today, if on the one hand, due to progress in the technical-scientific field, the ability to physically heal the sick increases, on the other hand the ability to “take care” of the suffering person, considered in its entirety and uniqueness, appears to be weakening. Therefore, the ethical horizons of medical science seem to be clouding, which runs the risk of forgetting how its vocation is to serve every man and the whole man, in the different phases of his existence. It is to be hoped that the language of the “Christian science of suffering” – to which compassion, solidarity, sharing, self-denial, gratuity, self-giving belong – will become the universal lexicon of those who work in the field of health care .
It is the language of the Good Samaritan of the Gospel parable, which can be considered – according to the Blessed Pope John Paul II – «one of the essential components of universally human moral culture and civilization» (Ap. Letter Salvifici Doloris, 29). In this perspective, hospitals should be considered as a privileged place for evangelization, because where the Church becomes a “vehicle of the presence of God” she becomes at the same time an “instrument for a true humanization of man and of the world” (Congr. for the Doctrine of Faith, Doctrinal note on some aspects of evangelization9).
Only having it clear that the well-being of man in his most fragile and defenseless condition is at the center of medical and welfare activities, of man in search of meaning in the face of the unfathomable mystery of pain, can the hospital be conceived as «a place where the care relationship is not a profession, but a mission; where the charity of the Good Samaritan is the first chair and the face of the suffering man the very face of Christ» (Speech at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in RomeMay 3, 2012).
Dear friends, this healing and evangelizing assistance is the task that always awaits you. Now more than ever our society needs “Good Samaritans” with generous hearts and arms wide open to everyone, in the awareness that “the measure of humanity is essentially determined in the relationship with suffering and with the sufferer” (Encyclical Spe save38). This “going beyond” the clinical approach opens you up to the dimension of transcendence, towards which a fundamental role is played by chaplains and religious assistants. It is up to them in the first place to make the glory of the Crucified and Risen shine through in the variegated healthcare panorama, even in the mystery of suffering.
I would like to reserve a final word for you, dear sick people. Your silent testimony is an effective sign and tool of evangelization for the people who care for you and for your families, in the certainty that “no tear, neither of those who suffer, nor of those close to them, is lost before God” (AngelusFebruary 1, 2009). You “are the brothers of the suffering Christ; and with him, if you want it, you can save the world!» (Second Vatican Council, Message)”.
03 January 2023
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Pope Benedict XVI: “To avoid that health, rather than a universal good to be ensured and defended, becomes a mere commodity subject to the laws of the market”
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