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Pope calls for common good, ethical responsibility in science, technology ‎

"Science, like any other human activity, has its limits which should be observed for the ‎good of ‎humanity itself, and requires a sense of ethical responsibility,” Pope Francis said on Saturday.  “The true measure of progress, as ‎Blessed ‎Paul VI recalled, is that which is aimed at the good of each man and the whole man,” the Pope told some 83 participants in the plenary assembly of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture.  The participants met the Pope at the conclusion of their Nov.15-18 assembly which discussed the theme, “The Future of Humanity: New Challenges to Anthropology.” 

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Incredible advances

The Pope said, the Church wants to give the correct direction to man at the dawn of a new era marked by incredible advances in medicine, genetics, neuroscience and “autonomous” machines.  Speaking about the incredible advances in genetics, he noted that diseases that were considered incurable until recently have been eradicated, and new possibilities have opened up to “programme” human beings with certain “qualities”. 

Not all the answers

The Pope said that "science and technology have helped us to further the boundaries of knowledge of nature, especially of the human being,” but they alone are not enough to give all the answers. ‎“Today,” he explained, “we ‎increasingly realize that it is necessary to draw from the treasures of wisdom of ‎religious ‎traditions, popular wisdom, literature and the arts that touch the depths of the mystery of ‎human ‎existence, without forgetting, but rather by rediscovering those contained in philosophy and ‎theology.‎”

Church teachings

In this regard, the Pope pointed to two principles of the Church’s  teaching. The first is the “centrality of the human person, which is to be considered an end and not a means.”  Man must be in harmony ‎with creation, not as a despot about God's inheritance, but as a loving guardian of the work ‎of the Creator.‎

The second principle is the universal destination of goods, including that of ‎knowledge and technology. Scientific and technological progress, the Pope explained, should serve the good of all humanity, and ‎not just a few, and this will help avoid new inequalities in the future based on knowledge, and prevent widening of the gap between the rich and the poor.  The Holy Father insisted that great decisions regarding the direction scientific research should take, and investment in it, should be taken together by the whole of society and should not be ‎dictated solely by market rules or by the interests of a few.‎  And finally, the Pope said, one must keep in mind that not everything that is technically possible or feasible is ethically acceptable. 

Pope prays for sailors aboard missing submarine

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis is offering his “fervent prayers” for 44 Argentinian sailors aboard a submarine that has been missing since Wednesday.

In a telegram sent addressed to the Bishop Santiago Olivera, the head Military Ordinariate of Argentina, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin noted the Pope’s concern for the sailors and expressed the Pope’s spiritual closeness to the families of the sailors, and to the military and civil authorities of the nation. He also noted the Holy Father’s encouragement for the efforts being made to find the vessel.

“His Holiness entrusts them to the maternal intercession of the Blessed Virgin, “ Cardinal Parolin said, and “he asks the Lord to instill in them spiritual serenity and Christian hope in these circumstances, in pledge of which he cordially imparts the comforting Apostolic Blessing.”

Pope Francis: ‘Compassion’ is more effective in addressing inequalities

Pope Francis on Saturday sent a letter to the participants of the 32nd International Conference on the theme ‘Addressing Global Health Inequalities’.  The event  organized by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and the International Confederation of Catholic Health Care Institutions is taking  place in the New Synod Hall of the Vatican from 16 to 18 November.

The  letter addressed to Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development,  the Holy Father stressed that apart from having well-structured organization for providing necessary services and the best possible attention to human needs,  the healthcare workers should be attuned to the importance of listening, accompanying and supporting the person for whom they care. For Pope Francis ‘compassion’ is  vital to be efficient and capable of addressing inequalities.  

The Pope concluded the letter exhorting the representatives of the pharmaceutical companies invited to address the issue of access to antiretroviral therapies by paediatric patients. Quoting a passage from the New Charter for Healthcare Workers, Pope Francis called them  to make available essential drugs in adequate quantities, in usable forms of guaranteed quality, along with correct information, and at costs that are affordable by individuals and communities.     

Please find below the official translation of the Pope's letter:

To My Venerable Brother

Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson

Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development

 

I offer a cordial welcome to the participants in the Thirty-second International Conference on the theme Addressing Global Health Inequalities.  I express my gratitude to all those who have worked to organize this event, in particular, to the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and the International Confederation of Catholic Health Care Institutions.

Last year’s Conference took note of encouraging data on the average life expectancy and on the global fight against pathologies, while at the same time pointing out the widening gap between the richer and poorer countries with regard to access to medical products and health-care treatment.  Consequently, it was decided to address the specific issue of inequalities and the social, economic, environmental and cultural factors underlying them. The Church cannot remain indifferent to this issue.  Conscious of her mission at the service of human beings created in the image of God, she is bound to promote their dignity and fundamental rights.

To this end, the New Charter for Health Care Workers states that “the fundamental right to the preservation of health pertains to the value of justice, whereby there are no distinctions between peoples and ethnic groups, taking into account their objective living situations and stages of development, in pursuing the common good, which is at the same time the good of all and of each individual” (No. 141).  The Church proposed that the right to health care and the right to justice ought to be reconciled by ensuring a fair distribution of healthcare facilities and financial resources, in accordance with the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity.  As the Charter notes, “those responsible for healthcare activities must also allow themselves to be uniquely and forcefully challenged by the awareness that ‘while the poor of the world continue knocking on the doors of the rich, the world of affluence runs the risk of no longer hearing those knocks, on account of a conscience that can no longer distinguish what is human’” (No. 91; Caritas in Veritate, 75).

I am pleased to learn that the Conference has drafted a project aimed at concretely addressing these challenges, namely, the establishment of an operational platform of sharing and cooperation between Catholic health care institutions in different geographical and social settings.  I willingly encourage those engaged in this project to persevere in this endeavour, with God’s help.  Healthcare workers and their professional associations in particular are called to this task, since they are committed to raising awareness among institutions, welfare agencies and the healthcare industry as a whole, for the sake of ensuring that every individual actually benefits from the right to health care.  Clearly, this depends not only on healthcare services, but also on complex economic, social, cultural and decision-making factors.  In effect, “the need to resolve the structural causes of poverty cannot be delayed, not only for the pragmatic reason of its urgency for the good of society, but because society needs to be cured of a sickness which is weakening and frustrating it, and which can only lead to new crises.  Welfare projects, which meet certain urgent needs, should be considered merely temporary responses.  As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems.  Inequality is the root of social ills.” (Evangelii Gaudium, 202).

I would like to focus on one aspect that is fundamental, especially for those who serve the Lord by caring for the health of their brothers and sisters.  While a well-structured organization is essential for providing necessary services and the best possible attention to human needs, healthcare workers should also be attuned to the importance of listening, accompanying and supporting the persons for whom they care.

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus shows us the practical approach required in caring for our suffering neighbour.  First, the Samaritan “sees”.  He notices and “is moved with compassion” at the sight of a person left stripped and wounded along the way.  This compassion is much more than mere pity or sorrow; it shows a readiness to become personally involved in the other’s situation.  Even if we can never equal God’s own compassion, which fills and renews the heart by its presence, nonetheless we can imitate that compassion by “drawing near”, “binding wounds”, “lifting up” and “caring for” our neighbour (cf. Lk 10:33-34).

A healthcare organization that is efficient and capable of addressing inequalities cannot forget that its raison d’être, which is compassion: the compassion of doctors, nurses, support staff, volunteers and all those who are thus able to minimize the pain associated with loneliness and anxiety.

Compassion is also a privileged way to promote justice, since empathizing with the others allows us not only to understand their struggles, difficulties and fears, but also to discover, in the frailness of every human being, his or her unique worth and dignity.  Indeed, human dignity is the basis of justice, while the recognition of every person’s inestimable worth is the force that impels us to work, with enthusiasm and self-sacrifice, to overcome all disparities.

Finally, I would like to address the representatives of the several pharmaceutical companies who have been invited to Rome to address the issue of access to antiretroviral therapies by paediatric patients.  I would like to offer for your consideration a passage of the New Charter for Healthcare Workers.  It states: “Although it cannot be denied that the scientific knowledge and research of pharmaceutical companies have their own laws by which they must abide – for example, the protection of intellectual property and a fair profit to support innovation – ways must be found to combine these adequately with the right of access to basic or necessary treatments, or both, especially in underdeveloped countries, and above all in the cases of so-called rare and neglected diseases, which are accompanied by the notion of orphan drugs.  Health care strategies aimed at pursuing justice and the common good must be economically and ethically sustainable.  Indeed, while they must safeguard the sustainability both of research and of health care systems, at the same time they ought to make available essential drugs in adequate quantities, in usable forms of guaranteed quality, along with correct information, and at costs that are affordable by individuals and communities” (No. 92).

I thank all of you for the generous commitment with which you exercise your valued mission. I give you my Apostolic Blessing, and I ask you to continue to remember me in your prayers.

From the Vatican, 18 November 2017

 

 

Pope at Mass: Take time to think about death

(Vatican Radio) With today’s readings, the Church invites us to reflect on the end of the world, but also on the end of our own lives. Pope Francis based his homily on the Gospel reading, where the Lord speaks about the daily lives of men and women in the days before the great Flood, or in the days of Lot – they lived normal lives, eating and drinking, doing business, marrying. But the “day of the manifestation of the Lord” came – and things changed.

The Church, our Mother, wants us to take time to consider our own death, the Pope said. We are all used to the routine of daily life. We think things will never change. But, Pope Francis continued, the day will come when we will be called by the Lord. For some it will be unexpected; for others it might come after a long illness – but the call will come. And then, the Pope said, there will be another surprise from the Lord: eternal life.

This is why the Church asks us to “pause for a moment, take a moment to think about death.” We should not become accustomed to earthly life, as though it were eternity. “A day will come,” the Pope said, echoing the words of Jesus in the Gospel, “when you will be taken away” to go with the Lord. And so it is good to reflect upon the end of our life.

“Thinking about death is not a gruesome fantasy,” the Pope said. “Whether it is gruesome or not depends on me, and how I think about it – but what will be, will be.” When we die, we will meet the Lord – “this is the beauty of death, it will be an encounter with the Lord, it is Him coming to meet you, saying, “Come, come, [you who are] blessed by My Father, come with me.”

The Holy Father concluded his homily with a story about an elderly priest who was not feeling well. When he went to the doctor, the doctor told him he was sick. “Perhaps we’ve caught it in time to treat it,” the doctor told him. “We will try this treatment, and if this doesn’t work, we’ll try something else. And if that doesn’t work, we will begin to walk [together], and I will accompany you to the very end.”

Like the doctor, we too, the Pope said, must accompany one another on this journey. We must do everything we can in order to assist the sick; but always looking toward our final destiny, to the day when the Lord will come to take us with Himself to our heavenly home. 

Pope to Ratzinger Prize-winners: a symphony of truth

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received the recipients of the 2017 Ratzinger Prize in Theology on Saturday morning. Catholic Professor Karl-Heinz Menke of the Theological Faculty of the University of Bonn, Lutheran Professor Theodor Dieter of the Institute for Ecumenical Research in Strasbourg, and Orthodox composer Arvo Pärt, share the Prize this year, which Benedict XVI established in 2010 as the leading international award for research in Sacred Scripture, patristics, and fundamental theology.

Broadening horizons of the Ratzinger Prize

This year, therefore, marks the first time in which the Prize is given to someone not engaged in strictly theological endeavor.

When the prize-winners were announced in September, the President of the Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Vatican Foundation, Fr. Federico Lombardi SJ, said, “Benedict XVI’s appreciation for the art of music and the highly religious inspiration behind the musical art of Pärt, justified the attribution of the prize also outside of the strictly theological field.”

Click below to hear our report

In remarks to the roughly 200 guests, including the prize-winners and officials of the Ratzinger Foundation on Saturday morning in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace, Pope Francis said, “I welcomed with joy the idea of ​broadening the horizon of the [Ratzinger] Prize to include the arts, in addition to the theology and sciences, which are naturally associated with it.” He went on to say, “It is an enlargement that corresponds well with the vision of [Pope emeritus] Benedict XVI, who so often spoke to us in a touching manner, of beauty as a privileged way of opening ourselves to transcendence and to meeting God.”

Ecumenical focus

The Prize this year also had an ecumenical element.

In addition to Pärt’s Orthodoxy, the year, 2017, is the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Lutheran movement in Christianity, and Lutheran Professor Theodor Dieter one of the three recipients.  “The truth of Christ,” said Pope Francis, “is not for soloists, but is symphonic: it requires docile collaboration, harmonious sharing.” The Holy Father also said, “Seeking it, studying it, contemplating it, and transposing it in practice together, in charity, draws us strongly toward full union between us: truth becomes thus a living source of ever closer ties of love.”

Pope Francis concluded, saying, “[C]ongratulations, therefore, to the illustrious prize winners: Professor Theodor Dieter, Professor Karl-Heinz Menke and Maestro Arvo Pärt; and my encouragement to [the Ratzinger] Foundation,” so that, “we might continue to travel along new and broader ways to collaborate in research, dialogue and knowledge of the truth. – a truth that, as Pope Benedict has not tired of reminding us, is, in God, logos and agape, wisdom and love, incarnate in the person of Jesus.”

Pope Francis sends video message to Myanmar ahead of visit

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis has sent a video message to the people of Myanmar, saying his upcoming trip to the country is meant “to confirm the faith of Myanmar’s Catholic community”.

The Holy Father makes his Apostolic Journey to Myanmar on 27-30 November 2017.

Listen to Devin Watkins’ report:

“I am coming to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, a message of reconciliation, forgiveness, and peace,” Pope Francis said.

Announcing his intention of confirming the faith and Gospel witness of the people of Myanmar, Pope Francis struck a warm tone in his video message sent ahead of his upcoming trip.

“My visit is meant to confirm the Catholic community of Myanmar in its worship of God and its witness to the Gospel.”

Pope Francis said the Gospel “teaches the dignity of every man and woman and commands us to open our hearts to others, especially the poor and those in need.”

The Pope also said he wishes to visit Myanmar “in a spirit of respect and encouragement”.

He said the people of Myanmar have sought to build “harmony and cooperation in the service of the common good”.

Pope Francis went on to say that we live in an age in which people of goodwill desire “to grow in mutual understanding and respect”.

He said this leads people “to support each other as members of our one human family.”

Finally, Pope Francis thanked the many people working to prepare his visit and asked all to pray that his Apostolic Journey be a source of hope and encouragement for all people of Myanmar.

Pope Francis sends letter to COP23 climate conference in Bonn

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis has sent a letter to participants in the COP-23 UN Convention on climate change, taking place in Bonn, Germany on 6-17 November.

The letter was sent to Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama of the Fiji Islands, which is officially hosting the event, and was read out to COP-23 participants.

Pope Francis congratulated the world leaders present at the COP-23 event and invited them "to maintain a high level of cooperation".

He renewed his "urgent call" for renewed dialogue "on how we are building the future of the planet."

"We need an exchange that unites us all," he said, "because the environmental challenge we are experiencing, and its human roots, regards us all, and affects us all."

The Pope warned participants not to fall into "four perverse attitudes" regarding the future of the planet: "denial, indifference, resignation and trust in inadequate solutions."

Finally, Pope Francis sent his well-wishes that the COP-23 would be "inspired by the same collaborative and prophetic spirit manifested during the COP-21" event at which the historic Paris agreement was signed.

Please find below the official translation of the Pope's message:

Excellency,

Nearly two years ago, the international community gathered within this UNFCCC forum, with most of its highest government representatives, and after a long and complex debate arrived at the adoption of the historic Paris Agreement. It saw the achievement of consensus on the need to launch a shared strategy to counteract one of the most worrying phenomena our humanity is experiencing: climate change.

The will to follow this consensus was highlighted by the speed with which the Paris Agreement entered into force, less than a year after its adoption.

The Agreement indicates a clear path of transition to a low- or zero-carbon model of economic development, encouraging solidarity and leveraging the strong links between combating climate change and poverty. This transition is further solicited by the climatic urgency that requires greater commitment from the countries, some of which must endeavour to take a leading role in this transition, bearing in mind the needs of the most vulnerable populations.

These days you are gathered in Bonn to carry out another important phase of the Paris Agreement: the process of defining and constructing guidelines, rules and institutional mechanisms so that it may be truly effective and capable of contributing to the achievement of the complex objectives it proposes. In such a path, it is necessary to maintain a high level of cooperation.

From this perspective, I would like to reaffirm my urgent call to renew dialogue on how we are building the future of the planet. We need an exchange that unites us all, because the environmental challenge we are experiencing, and its human roots, regards us all, and affects us all. [...] Unfortunately, many efforts to seek concrete solutions to the environmental crisis are often frustrated for various reasons ranging from denial of the problem to indifference, comfortable resignation, or blind trust in technical solutions (cf. Encyclical Laudato si’, 14).

We should avoid falling into the trap of these four perverse attitudes, which certainly do not help honest research or sincere and productive dialogue on building the future of our planet: denial, indifference, resignation and trust in inadequate solutions.

Moreover, we cannot limit ourselves only to the economic and technological dimension: technical solutions are necessary but not sufficient; it is essential and desirable to carefully consider the ethical and social impacts and impacts of the new paradigm of development and progress in the short, medium and long term.

From this perspective, it is increasingly necessary to pay attention to education and lifestyles based on an integral ecology, capable of taking on a vision of honest research and open dialogue where the various dimensions of the Paris Agreement are intertwined. It is useful to remember that the Agreement recalls the “grave … ethical and moral responsibility to act without delay, in a manner as free as possible from political and economic pressures, setting aside particular interests and behaviour” (cf. Message to COP-22). This means, in effect, propagating a “responsible awareness” towards our common home (cf. Encyclical Laudato si’, 202; 231) through the contribution of all, in explaining the different forms of action and partnership between the various stakeholders, some of whom do not lack to highlight the ingenuity of the human being in favour of the common good.

While I send my greetings to you, Mr President, and to all the participants in this Conference, I hope that, with your authoritative guidance and that of the Fiji Islands, the work of these days will be inspired by the same collaborative and prophetic spirit manifested during the COP-21. This will enable an acceleration of awareness-raising and consolidate the will to make effective decisions to counteract the phenomenon of climate change while at the same time fighting poverty and promoting true human development as a whole. This commitment is supported by the wise providence of God Most High.

Pope Francis makes surprise visit field hospital in St. Peter's Square

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis made a surprise visit on Thursday afternoon to a small "field hospital" set up in front of St. Peter's Square to provide medical care for Rome's poor.

During the short visit, the Pope greeted volunteers and poor people waiting to receive care ahead of the first World Day of the Poor, taking place on Sunday, November 19.

He was accompanied by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelisation.

The healthcare structure is an initiative connected to that Day and announced by the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelisation.

Pope Francis called for the celebration of the World Day of the Poor at the end of the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

A statement from the Holy See Press Office said the tent hospital run by the Italian Red Cross offers "free medical visits for the poor and needy throughout the week from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM".

Red Cross medics staffing the field hospital are specialized in clinical analysis, cardiology, dermatology, gynecology, and andrology.

Pope addresses end-of-life issues

(Vatican Radio) When faced with the new challenges that arise with regard to “end-of-life” issues, “the categorical imperative is to never abandon the sick.” In a letter to participants in the European Regional Meeting of the World Medical Association on end-of-life issues, Pope Francis said:

“The anguish associated with conditions that bring us to the threshold of human mortality, and the difficulty of the decision we have to make, may tempt us to step back from the patient.  Yet this is where, more than anything else, we are called to show love and closeness, recognizing the limit that we all share and showing our solidarity.”

In his message, the Holy Father called for “greater wisdom” in striking a balance between medical efforts to prolong life, and the responsible decision to withhold treatment when death becomes inevitable. “It is clear that not adopting, or else suspending, disproportionate measures, means avoiding overzealous treatment,” the Pope said. “From an ethical standpoint, it is completely different from euthanasia, which is always wrong, in that the intent of euthanasia is to end life and cause death.”

Pope Francis acknowledged that it is often difficult to determine the proper course of action in increasingly complex cases. “There needs to be a careful discernment of the moral object, the attending circumstances, and the intentions of those involved,” he said, pointing to the traditional criteria of moral theology for evaluating human actions. But in this process, he insisted “the patient has the primary role.”

The Holy Father also raised the issue of “a systemic tendency toward growing inequality in health care,” both globally – especially between different continents – and within individual, especially wealthy countries, where options for health care often depend more on “economic resources,” than the “actual need for treatment.”

It is important, Pope Francis said, to find agreed solutions to “these sensitive issues.” He emphasized the need to recognize different world views and ethical systems, but also noted the duty of the state to protect the dignity of every human person, especially the most vulnerable.

Below, please find the full text of Pope Francis’ letter:

To My Venerable Brother
Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia
President of the Pontifical Academy for Life

 

I extend my cordial greetings to you and to all the participants in the European Regional Meeting of the World Medical Association on end-of-life issues, held in the Vatican in conjunction with the Pontifical Academy for Life.

Your meeting will address questions dealing with the end of earthly life.  They are questions that have always challenged humanity, but that today take on new forms by reason of increased knowledge and the development of new technical tools.  The growing therapeutic capabilities of medical science have made it possible to eliminate many diseases, to improve health and to prolong people’s life span.  While these developments have proved quite positive, it has also become possible nowadays to extend life by means that were inconceivable in the past.  Surgery and other medical interventions have become ever more effective, but they are not always beneficial: they can sustain, or even replace, failing vital functions, but that is not the same as promoting health.  Greater wisdom is called for today, because of the temptation to insist on treatments that have powerful effects on the body, yet at times do not serve the integral good of the person.

Some sixty years ago, Pope Pius XII, in a memorable address to anaesthesiologists and intensive care specialists, stated that there is no obligation to have recourse in all circumstances to every possible remedy and that, in some specific cases, it is permissible to refrain from their use (cf. AAS XLIX [1957], 1027-1033).  Consequently, it is morally licit to decide not to adopt therapeutic measures, or to discontinue them, when their use does not meet that ethical and humanistic standard that would later be called “due proportion in the use of remedies” (cf. CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH, Declaration on Euthanasia, 5 May 1980, IV: AAS LXXII [1980], 542-552).  The specific element of this criterion is that it considers “the result that can be expected, taking into account the state of the sick person and his or her physical and moral resources” (ibid.).  It thus makes possible a decision that is morally qualified as withdrawal of “overzealous treatment”.

Such a decision responsibly acknowledges the limitations of our mortality, once it becomes clear that opposition to it is futile.  “Here one does not will to cause death; one’s inability to impede it is merely accepted” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2278).  This difference of perspective restores humanity to the accompaniment of the dying, while not attempting to justify the suppression of the living.  It is clear that not adopting, or else suspending, disproportionate measures, means avoiding overzealous treatment; from an ethical standpoint, it is completely different from euthanasia, which is always wrong, in that the intent of euthanasia is to end life and cause death.

Needless to say, in the face of critical situations and in clinical practice, the factors that come into play are often difficult to evaluate.  To determine whether a clinically appropriate medical intervention is actually proportionate, the mechanical application of a general rule is not sufficient.  There needs to be a careful discernment of the moral object, the attending circumstances, and the intentions of those involved.  In caring for and accompanying a given patient, the personal and relational elements in his or her life and death – which is after all the last moment in life – must be given a consideration befitting human dignity.  In this process, the patient has the primary role.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes this clear: “The decisions should be made by the patient if he is competent and able” (loc. cit.). The patient, first and foremost, has the right, obviously in dialogue with medical professionals, to evaluate a proposed treatment and to judge its actual proportionality in his or her concrete case, and necessarily refusing it if such proportionality is judged lacking.  That evaluation is not easy to make in today's medical context, where the doctor-patient relationship has become increasingly fragmented and medical care involves any number of technological and organizational aspects.

It should also be noted that these processes of evaluation are conditioned by the growing gap in healthcare possibilities resulting from the combination of technical and scientific capability and economic interests.  Increasingly sophisticated and costly treatments are available to ever more limited and privileged segments of the population, and this raises questions about the sustainability of healthcare delivery and about what might be called a systemic tendency toward growing inequality in health care.  This tendency is clearly visible at a global level, particularly when different continents are compared.  But it is also present within the more wealthy countries, where access to healthcare risks being more dependent on individuals’ economic resources than on their actual need for treatment.

In the complexity resulting from the influence of these various factors on clinical practice, but also on medical culture in general, the supreme commandment of responsible closeness, must be kept uppermost in mind, as we see clearly from the Gospel story of the Good Samaritan (cf. Lk 10:25-37).  It could be said that the categorical imperative is to never abandon the sick.  The anguish associated with conditions that bring us to the threshold of human mortality, and the difficulty of the decision we have to make, may tempt us to step back from the patient.  Yet this is where, more than anything else, we are called to show love and closeness, recognizing the limit that we all share and showing our solidarity.  Let each of us give love in his or her own way—as a father, a mother, a son, a daughter, a brother or sister, a doctor or a nurse.  But give it!  And even if we know that we cannot always guarantee healing or a cure, we can and must always care for the living, without ourselves shortening their life, but also without futilely resisting their death.  This approach is reflected in palliative care, which is proving most important in our culture, as it opposes what makes death most terrifying and unwelcome—pain and loneliness.

Within democratic societies, these sensitive issues must be addressed calmly, seriously and thoughtfully, in a way open to finding, to the extent possible, agreed solutions, also on the legal level.  On the one hand, there is a need to take into account differing world views, ethical convictions and religious affiliations, in a climate of openness and dialogue.  On the other hand, the state cannot renounce its duty to protect all those involved, defending the fundamental equality whereby everyone is recognized under law as a human being living with others in society.  Particular attention must be paid to the most vulnerable, who need help in defending their own interests.  If this core of values essential to coexistence is weakened, the possibility of agreeing on that recognition of the other which is the condition for all dialogue and the very life of society will also be lost.  Legislation on health care also needs this broad vision and a comprehensive view of what most effectively promotes the common good in each concrete situation.

 In the hope that these reflections may prove helpful, I offer you my cordial good wishes for a serene and constructive meeting.  I also trust that you will find the most appropriate ways of addressing these delicate issues with a view to the good of all those whom you meet and those with whom you work in your demanding profession.

May the Lord bless you and the Virgin Mary protect you.

 

From the Vatican, 7 November 2017

Pope Francis to lead Prayer for Peace in South Sudan and DRC

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis is to preside over a Prayer for Peace in South Sudan and in the Democratic Republic of Congo on November 23rd in St. Peter’s Basilica at 5.30pm Rome time.

Solidarity with South Sudan” in association with the Justice and Peace office of religious organizations worldwide, has organized the Prayer and confirmed that when Pope Francis heard of the initiative he made it known that he wanted to be personally involved. 

Christians across the world are invited to pray together on that day and time for Peace in the world, and above all in South Sudan and in DRC, two conflict ravaged nations in which millions of displaced people are suffering the effects of terrible humanitarian crises.

Sr. Yudith Pereira Rico, the Associate Executive Director of Solidarity in Rome, told journalists that the main thing people ask her to do when she travels to South Sudan, is to tell the world what is happening in their country.

The world’s newest country spiraled into civil war in late 2013, two years after gaining independence from Sudan, causing one fourth of the 15 million-strong population to flee their homes.

Sister Yudith described the continuing violence and abuse taking place in South Sudan as “Silent Genocide”.

She told Linda Bordoni what it means for the suffering people of South Sudan to know that the Pope and Christians across the world are praying for them:

Listen:

Sister Yudith said that for them, to know that people outside of South Sudan, in Rome, and in other places are praying for them, is to know that “we have the world with us”.

“For them it a source of strength and hope for the future to feel that they are not alone, and this is important because otherwise where can they find the courage to resist what they are enduring now as refugees, victims…” she said.

And highlighting the many abuses the most vulnerable people are enduring including the use of rape as a weapon of war, Sr Yudith said “to know that people are talking about this means that they too, as human beings count”.

“They feel they don’t count for anybody: for politicians they don’t count, they don’t exist – they are only fighting for power and for money.”

She says most people don’t even know where South Sudan is or the fact that it is the newt country.

To acknowledge and to pray for them, she said, is to give them dignity and saying “we are with you”.

She said that notwithstanding the terrible events that caused the new nation to disintegrate into conflict the people still want to be one.

She explained that they came from 20 years of war, they did not have a national identity, and while the warmongers are vying for power and control the new generations, the women and all ordinary people are convinced they can all live together peacefully.

Sr Yudith also spoke of Pope Francis’ interest in the nation and of how it has positively impacted the desire to set in motion some kind of peace process.

“He is waiting for them to begin something so he can come and lend his support, but they have to begin…” she said.