“The Hospital, Setting for Evangelization: a Human and Spiritual Mission” is the theme of the twenty-seventh international conference of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care which will be held from 15 to 17 November in the Vatican’s New Synod Hall. At the end of the conference, participants are due to be received in audience by Benedict XVI.
Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the dicastery, and Fr. Augusto Chendi M.I., under secretary, presented the aims of the conference at the Holy See Press Office.
“Go, teach and heal the sick, is Jesus’ mandate”, said Archbishop Zimowski, “upon which are based two of the most fundamental activities of His Church: the proclamation of the Word and the care of the sick. … In the light of the current Year of Faith and the recent thirteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, hospitals, as important places for evangelization, … today constitute a crossroads of cultures and religions, areas where the apostolate of mercy, as defined by Blessed Pope John Paul II, finds exalted expression”.
He observed, “In industrialized countries, aside from the grave economic and financial crises which have struck a number of nations and led to a drastic review of health services, serious challenges exist, beginning with the preservation of the identity of Catholic hospitals and other health centers, and the maintenance of their specific role of ‘subsidiarity’. This must be achieved without in any way diminishing the importance of fundamental issues such as full respect for life from conception to natural end; the humanization of healthcare (which means showing full respect for patients, their identity and life experiences); palliative care, etc.”.
With regard to those countries facing greater economic hardships, the archbishop spoke of grave difficulties in accessing basic healthcare, and recalled that “people often die on account of a lack of basic medicines costing just a few dollars, as in the case of anti-malarial treatments”. He also emphasized the scarcity of basic diagnostic instruments and specialized training for healthcare personnel, due primarily to “the lack of opportunities” for further study, usually for economic reasons. He also noted that “the few resources available to hospitals in the poorest regions must be used for the benefit of the population without discrimination on the basis of faith or ethnic origin, in accordance with the Word, the teachings of the Church and the spirit and history of missions”.
He concluded, “What unites large urban hospitals and the small rural clinics … is the relationship between patients and healthcare workers, … the fact that they belong to the Universal Catholic Church, and necessarily adhere to her principles and teachings”.
In his address, Fr. Chendi announced that the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Health Workers, on the occasion of the next World Day of the Sick (11 February 2013) will publish a manual, translated into various languages and valid for the whole of the Liturgical Year. The new volume will offer patients and all those involved in their physical and spiritual care a point of reference for theological reflection, pastoral care and prayer.
“Our intention in entrusting this manual to the Church, and to the world of healthcare, parishes and voluntary work, is to create a communion of grace, prayer and mutual charity”, he said. “This, we hope will help us see in the mystery of suffering … the concrete and daily testimony of those who bring good to the sick, and who bring good through their own sickness. In this way such people bear a valid witness to the faith which, from the sickbed and close to those who suffer, is an important source of evangelization and hope”.