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Thursday, December 15, 2016

Greetings for paediatricians

At 11:30am today, in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican, the Holy Father, Pope Francis received in audience the community from the Bambino Gesù Paediatric Hospital in Rome.

There were 150 children, currently receiving treatment at the hospital, and their parents present at this meeting.  Among them, there was also a group of foreigners from the world's peripheries where international outreach efforts from the Bambino Gesù hospital are present.  Also present were 15 children from Bangui (Central African Republic), together with the Archbishop of that city, His Eminence, Dieudonné Nzapalainga.

In the 7,000 seats in the Paul VI Hall, there were also present, the entire community of the Bambino Gesù Paediatric Hospital: employees, staff, volunteers, associations, families patients and students.

Following the introduction and a greeting offered by the President of the hospital, Doctor Mariella Enoc, and the witnesses of a few representatives of the hospital, the Holy Father offered the following remarks:

Speech of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
addressed to the community of the
Bambino Gesù Paediatric Hospital

Dear friends, good morning!

I am happy to meet with you; thank you for coming and for your testimonials.  I thank your President, Doctor Mariella Enoc, for her courteous words.

Valentina, your question about children who suffer is great and difficult too; I do not have a reply, I believe it would be good if this question were to remain open.  Not even Jesus gave a response to this question.  In some cases, it happens that the innocent suffer in tragic circumstances, and Jesus did not try to preach in such cases, to present a theoretical speech.  He could certainly have done so, but he didn't.  While he was living among us, he did not explain why suffering exists.  Instead, Jesus showed us a way that makes sense of this human experience: he did not explain why we suffer, but he supported our suffering by offering us his love.  This is not a question of why, but for whom.  He offered his life for us and with this gift, which cost him such a high price, he saved us.  Those who follow Jesus do the same: more than seeking answers, they live every day for others.

Valentina was demanding; she has also asked for a medicine for those who are in contact with suffering.  This is a beautiful question; I would only say one small thing, we can learn from children: rediscover every day the value of gratitude, learn how to say thank you.  We teach these things to children and then we adults don't do them.  But saying thank you, simply because we are standing in front of someone else, is medicine to protect us from the loss of hope, which is a terrible contageous sickness.  Saying thank you energizes hope, the hope in which, as Saint Paul says, we have been saved (cf Rom 8:24).  Hope is the fuel of Christian life, that helps us to keep going every day.  Therefore it is good to live in gratitude, simply and happily as children of God, little children who are joyous.

Dino, you spoke especially about the beauty of little things.  This might seem to be futile logic, especially today, with the mentality of appearances that demands immediate results, success, visibility.  On the other hand, you think of Jesus: most of his life on this earth was spent in hiding; he grew up in a family where he was unhurried, every day he learned, he worked, he shared joy and suffering with them.  Christmas tells us that God did not appear on earth as someone who was strong and powerful, but rather as a child who was fragile and weak.

While Dino was speaking about how he experiences this smallness, he also asked for more space.  This is a good question.  We live in a time when space and time are more and more restricted.  We spend so much time running and we find less and less space: not only to park our cars, but also places to meet one another; not only less free time, but also time to stop and find ourselves.  There is a great need for time and space that is more human.  Based on what I know, throughout its history, the Bambino Gesù hospital has developed in response to many needs that have been identified; they opened new offices and some services have been relocated in order to be able to offer new spaces to accommodate patients, families and research.  This history must be remembered; it is the best prerequisite for the future!  In spite of tight spaces, horizons have been expanded: the Bambino Gesù has not remained constrained to its original purposes, but has created new spaces and many projects, even far away, on other continents.  This tells us that quality of care is not dependent only on logical aspects, but spaces for the heart.  We must enlarge the spaces of our hearts: then Providence will lead us to also think about concrete spaces!

On the other hand, Luca, you asked what should be the trademark of the Bambino Gesù, other than its professional ability, which is certainly invaluable.  To a young Christian who, like Luca, after having completed his studies is looking at the world of work - which must be open to young people, not only to the markets - I would recommend two ingredients.  The first is that you keep your dreams alive.  Dreams will never anesthetize us, in this case, anesthesia is prohibited!  God himself speaks through dreams - we hear one such account in Sunday's gospel; but above all, he invites us to realize great dreams, even difficult ones.  He urges us to not be content only to do good, but to never grow tired of the desire to participate in large plans.  It makes me happy to think that God himself has dreams, even now, for each one of us.  A life without dreams is not worthy of God, a life that has grown tired and resigned - where people are content and live without enthusiasm - is not Christian.

I would also add a second ingredient, in addition to dreams: the gift.  Serena, you told us about the strength of the giver.  After all, we can live while following two different objectives: with the primary objective of either having or giving.  We can work mainly at thinking about giving, or seeking to give the best of ourselves for the good of others.  Then our work, despite all the difficulties, will become a contribution to the common good, sometimes even a mission.  And we are left still facing a dilemma: on one hand, to do something that will serve my own interests, my own success, my need to be recognized; or on the other hand, following the mandate to serve, to give, to love.  Often, the two are mixed, they go together, but it is always important to recognize which comes first.  Every morning we can say: now, I must go there, do that work, meet those people, face those problems; but I want to live this day as the Lord would have me live it; not as a burden - that can weigh down other people who I have to endure - but as a gift.  It's my turn to do something good, to help Jesus, to bear witness not with words but with my work.  Every day, we can go out of our houses with our hearts a bit closed in on ourselves, or with our hearts open, ready to encounter others and to give.  It is much more joyous to give with an open heart than to do so with a closed heart!  Do you agree?  I wish you all a joy-filled Christmas, I hope that you will live it with open hearts, and that you will maintain this joyous family spirit, and thank you very much.

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