In his message for the 29th World Day of the Sick, Francis notes that health is a primary common good. The pandemic has shown shortcomings in healthcare systems and the elderly and the most vulnerable are not always guaranteed access to treatment in an equitable manner. Still, the crisis has also highlighted the dedication and generosity of so many.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – In his message for the 29th World Day of the Sick on 11 February, liturgical memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Lourdes, Pope Francis released a message titled “You have but one teacher and you are all brothers (Mt 23:8). A trust-based relationship to guide care for the sick”.
People affected by illness start to wonder about the meaning of life to which faith can give an answer that also includes closeness to others, and the shared suffering shown so often by Jesus. Whilst the pandemic has shown the limits and deficiencies of healthcare systems along with political and human selfishness, it has also highlighted the dedication of so many who take care of the sick and showed the need for a relationship of trust between patients and their caregivers.
The Pope’s message begins with a thought for “those who have suffered, and continue to suffer, the effects of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic. To all, and especially to the poor and the marginalized, I express my spiritual closeness and assure them of the Church’s loving concern.”
“The experience of sickness makes us realize our own vulnerability and our innate need of others. It makes us feel all the more clearly that we are creatures dependent on God. When we are ill, fear and even bewilderment can grip our minds and hearts; we find ourselves powerless, since our health does not depend on our abilities or life’s incessant worries (cf. Mt 6:27).
“Sickness raises the question of life’s meaning, which we bring before God in faith. In seeking a new and deeper direction in our lives, we may not find an immediate answer. Nor are our relatives and friends always able to help us in this demanding quest.”
“The current pandemic has exacerbated inequalities in our healthcare systems and exposed inefficiencies in the care of the sick. Elderly, weak and vulnerable people are not always granted access to care, or in an equitable manner.
“This is the result of political decisions, resource management and greater or lesser commitment on the part of those holding positions of responsibility. Investing resources in the care and assistance of the sick is a priority linked to the fundamental principle that health is a primary common good.
“Yet the pandemic has also highlighted the dedication and generosity of healthcare personnel, volunteers, support staff, priests, men and women religious, all of whom have helped, treated, comforted and served so many of the sick and their families with professionalism, self-giving, responsibility and love of neighbour.”
All of them, as “members of our one human family” have offered their closeness, which “provides support and consolation to the sick in their suffering. As Christians, we experience that closeness as a sign of the love of Jesus Christ, the Good Samaritan, who draws near with compassion to every man and woman wounded by sin.”
Lastly, the message focuses on the importance of the “relational aspect” between the sick and their caregivers. “If a therapy is to be effective, it must have a relational aspect, for this enables a holistic approach to the patient. Emphasizing this aspect can help doctors, nurses, professionals and volunteers to feel responsible for accompanying patients on a path of healing grounded in a trusting interpersonal relationship (cf. New Charter for Health Care Workers , 4).
“This creates a covenant between those in need of care and those who provide that care, a covenant based on mutual trust and respect, openness and availability. This will help to overcome defensive attitudes, respect the dignity of the sick, safeguard the professionalism of healthcare workers and foster a good relationship with the families of patients.”
“Such a relationship with the sick can find an unfailing source of motivation and strength in the charity of Christ, as shown by the witness of those men and women who down the millennia have grown in holiness through service to the infirm.”
“[T]he commandment of love that Jesus left to his disciples is also kept in our relationship with the sick. A society is all the more human to the degree that it cares effectively for its most frail and suffering members, in a spirit of fraternal love. Let us strive to achieve this goal, so that no one will feel alone, excluded or abandoned.”