05/24/2004, 00.00

Sars-physican, Carlo Urbani, a man who made heroic choices

A biography on the doctor's deep faith will be presented at PIME's Missionary Center in Milan.

Milan (AsiaNews) – The death of Carlo Urbani (March 23, 2003) sparked a wave of sorrow across Italy and many countries of Asia. The Italian medical doctor was well-loved not just in Thailand, where he spent his last dies dying of the same Sars virus he discovered, but also in Vietnam and Cambodia where Dr. Urbani had served as a WHO official.    

What had inspired Urbani, who fully knew the risks he took, to make such heroic choices in personally battling the mysterious disease that would eventually take his own life? Lucia Bellaspiga explains why in her biography, titled "Carlo Urbani, First Doctor to Fight Against Sars" (Ancora)", a book filled with particular and directly told stories and details about the physician.   

The biography, the first authorized on Urbani's life and work, documents the physician's deep Christian faith and his choice to devote himself to care for less fortunate people, a choice that came to fruition after a solid upbringing in the Church. Of the three biographies released in the past few months, Bellaspiga's is the only one that underscores the strong ties Dr. Urbani had with his childhood friend, a cloistered nun.  

Bellaspiga's book on the life of Urbani will be presented tomorrow, May 25 at 9.00 p.m. the PIME Missionary Center in Milan (Via Mosé Bianchi, 94 – tel. 02-438221).

Taking part in the evening's activities will be the author-journalist ("Avvenire") herself, Lucia Bellaspiga, the president of the Sacred Heart University of Milan,  Lorenzo Ornaghi, the president of the Autorithy Volunteer Corps, and Stella Pan, a university professor in Taiwan and translator of the biography's Chinese edition. Hosting the event will be Gerolamo Fazzini, co-director of PIME's monthly magazine, "Mondo e Missione" ("World and Mission").    

The evening will provide an intimate opportunity to learn about the spiritual and real-life inspiration behind Carlo Urbani's work.

When the physician died, messages of condolences and solidarity came from all over the world, including Canada, Australian, and Argentina. The international press also wrote articles paying great homage to the man. Today, two organizations have been founded in his honor, the Italian Carlo Urbani Association as well as the International Carlo Urbani Foundation in Taiwan. 

It was the Taiwanese foundation, created and funded by the local government to promote the fight against Sars, that organized the Chinese translation of the biography "so that youth of the Far East can know that life's choices are not just inspired by the values of capitalism", as the book's dedicatory note from the Taiwan's Ministry of Health reads.

Indeed Urbani made a huge and courageous impression on Taiwan's Buddhist health minister who said,  "Heroic figures of self-denial like Carlo Urbani speak for universal values…that go beyond all differences of faith and religion."

The International Carlo Urbani Foundation in Taiwan has set up a health awareness program while taking advantage to the territory's widespread pharmacies, where citizens can obtain information on essential ways to prevent the spread and infection of the on-going Sars epidemic. 
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