Monday, May 28, 2018

Speaking with Catholic Doctors

At 11:10am this morning (5:10am EDT), in the Hall of the Popes in the Apostolic Palace, the Holy Father, Pope Francis received in audience a delegation from the International Federation of Associations of Catholic Doctors (FIAMC), on the occasion of the upcoming congress which will be held in Zagreb (Croatia) from 30 May to 2 June, and which will focus on the theme: Holiness of life and the medical profession, from Humanae vitae to Laudato si'.

Greetings of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
addressed to Catholic doctors

Dear brothers and sisters,

I am pleased to welcome you and to offer my greetings to all of you, beginning with your President, Doctor John Lee, who I thank for his words.

Your qualifications as Catholic doctors commit you to ongoing spiritual, moral and bioethical formation in order that you might implement the evangelical principles in your medical practice, beginning with the doctor-patient relationship and continuing to the point of including missionary activity in order to improve the health conditions within the populations in every periphery of the world.  Your work is a particular form of human solidarity and Christian witness; in fact, your work is enriched with the spirit of faith.  It is important that your associations should commit themselves to sensitizing all students of medicine as well as young doctors to these principles by involving them in the activities of your associations.

Your Catholic identity does not compromise your collaboration with those who, from different religious perspectives or those who do not have a specific creed, recognize the dignity and the excellency of the human person as the criterion for their activities.  The Church is for life, and her concern is that nothing should be against life in the reality of concrete existence, however weak or defenceless it may be, even if it has not yet been developed or advanced.  Being Catholic doctors, therefore, is to know that you are health workers who based on your faith and your communion with the Church, receive the inspiration to help your own Christian and professional formation to mature, so that your dedication may be untiring and so that you may penetrate even more deeply the laws of nature in order to better know and understand them in order to better serve life (cf Paul VI, Encyclical Letter, Humanae Vitae, 24).

The fidelity and coherence with which the Associations of your Federation, over the years, have kept faith in their Catholic physiognomy, implementing the teaching of the Church and the directives of its Magisterium in the medical-moral field are known. This criterion of recognition and action has fostered your collaboration in the mission of the Church in promoting and defending human life from its conception to its natural end, the quality of existence, respect for the weak, the humanization of medicine and its full socialization.

This fidelity has required and continues to require hardships and difficulties that, in particular circumstances, can demand much courage. Continue with serenity and determination on this path, accompanying the magisterial interventions in the areas of medicine with a corresponding awareness of their moral implications. The field of medicine and health, in fact, has not been spared from the advance of the technocratic cultural paradigm, from the adoration of human power without limits and from practical relativism, in which everything becomes irrelevant if it is not necessary for one's own interests (cf Encyclical Letter, Laudato si ', 122).

Faced with this situation, you are called to affirm the centrality of the patient as a person and to uphold his dignity, including his inalienable rights, primarily the right to life. The tendency to debase the sick man by seeing him as a machine to be repaired, without respect for moral principles, and to exploit the weak by discarding what does not correspond to the ideology of efficiency and profit must be resisted. The defence of the personal dimension of the patient is essential for the humanization of medicine, in the sense also of human ecology. It is your responsibility to work in the respective countries and at international levels, intervening in specialized environments but also in discussions concerning legislation on sensitive ethical issues, such as termination of pregnancy, end-of-life and genetic medicine. Do not lack in solicitude also in defence of freedom of conscience, of doctors and of all health workers. It is not acceptable for your role to be reduced to that of a simple executor of the will of the patient or the needs of the health system in which you work.

In your upcoming congress, which will be held in Zagreb in a few days, you will reflect on the theme: Holiness of life and medical profession, from Humanae vitae to Laudato si '. This too is a sign of your concrete participation in the life and mission of the Church. This participation - as was pointed out by the Second Vatican Council - is so necessary that, without it, the apostolate of Pastors can not for the most part reach its full effectiveness (Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, Apostolicam Actuositatem, 10). Be more and more aware that today it is necessary and urgent that the action of the Catholic physician presents itself with an unmistakable clarity on the level of personal and associative testimony.

In this regard, it is desirable that the activities of the Associations of Catholic Doctors are interdisciplinary and also involve other ecclesial realities. In particular, know how to harmonize your efforts with those of priests, men and women religious and of all those who work in health pastoral care, putting them together with the people who suffer: they are in great need of you and your contribution. Be ministers, as well as care givers, ministers of fraternal charity, transmitting to those who approach you with the contribution of your knowledge, the wealth of humanity and with evangelical compassion.

Dear brothers and sisters, many look to you and your work. Your words, your gestures, your advice, your choices have an echo that goes beyond the strictly professional field and becomes, if coherent, a testimony of lived faith. The profession thus rises to the dignity of a true apostolate. I encourage you to continue your journey with joy and generosity, in collaboration with all the people and institutions that share the love of life and endeavour to serve it in its dignity and sacredness. May the Virgin Mary, Salus infirmorum, support your intentions, which I accompany with my blessing. And please, pray for me too. Thank you.

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