Catholic hospitals are "privileged places for evangelisation," in the First World as well
The International Conference of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers was presented today, with participants expected from 60 countries from around the world. Although they operate in different contexts, Catholic hospitals are structured in a similar fashion and are united by the same patient-healthcare worker relationship, affiliation with the universal Church and the necessity to adhere to its principles and teachings.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The 27th International Conference of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers (for Health Pastoral Care) is set for 15-17 November in the Vatican. Its focus will be on hospitals as "privileged places for evangelisation" not only in the lands of mission but also in industrialised nations. Its programme was presented this morning.

In this Year of Faith, the conference's theme is "The Hospital, Setting for Evangelisation: a Human and Spiritual Mission." Mgr Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, said that more than 600 participants are expected from 60 countries in five continents, from Angola and Zimbabwe to the United States, Australia, Germany and Taiwan.

Hospitals "have similar structures but cope with different problems according to the country," Mgr Zimowski said. "In industrialised nations, beyond the current economic-financial situation that is affecting many countries and causing major cuts in health care services, there are serious challenges, not the least the need to maintain the identity of Catholic hospitals and clinics and their specific subsidiary role. Other issues remain important as well, namely absolute respect for life from conception to natural death; more humane treatments of patients, his identity and life experiences; palliative care, and so on."

"On the other hand, in most underdeveloped countries, access to health care is a problem and people die from the lack of low-cost drugs, like those against malaria. These nations lack basic diagnostic tools and the opportunity to use them, as well as the desired specialised education for health care workers because of scarce economic means to pursue their training. The little that does exist in hospitals functioning in poor regions, I must stress, is used on behalf of everyone irrespective of their faith or ethnic affiliation, as the Word of God, Church teachings and the spirit and history of missions teach us."

What unites big city hospitals and small rural facilities are the "patient-healthcare worker relationship" and the "affiliation with the Universal Catholic Church and the necessity to adhere to its principles and teachings."

For Mgr Jean-Marie Mupendawatu, secretary of the Pontifical Council, what is at stake is "a culture of health," which in "our times covers a broader canvas of individual and social problems."

"This principle raises many issues that affect human life, from conception to natural death (like abortion, birth control, prenatal diagnostics, respect for the disabled, senior citizens, artificial insemination, cell transplants and more), which often lead to aberrant solutions when they lack an inalienable ethical guidance," not to mention, as Mgr Mupendawatu acknowledged, "serious shortcomings in health care policy and reform around the world."