2014-10-01 16:05:00

Bishop Mupendawatu: courage needed to bear witness to gospel of life

(Vatican Radio)  The Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Healthcare Workers told Catholic doctors and healthcare professionals that courage is needed nowadays to bear witness courageously to the gospel of life.  Bishop Jean-Marie Mupendawatu said this is a task of the new evangelization that often requires going against the tide and paying for it personally.  His remarks came during an address to the Congress of the World Federation of Catholic Medical Associations held in Manila.  


Please find below the full text of Bishop Mupendawatu’s address:







MANILA, October 1-4, 2014



Your Eminences,

Your Excellences,

The Executive of FIAMC,

And all you dear Catholic Doctors,


It is a great joy and honour for me to represent the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers at this 24th World Congress of the World Federation of Catholic Medical Associations. I bring to you the greetings and blessings of the President, Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, who asked me to convey his apologies for not being able to be with us today, due to other   binding commitments. He however promised his prayers for all of you and wishes you fruitful deliberations.


I thank the President of FIAMC, Dr. Simon Castellvi and the organizing committee of this Congress for the invitation extended to me to participate in these days of reflection, sharing and learning, particularly discussing the challenges and mission of the Catholic Doctor in an Era of Secularization and Technology. My sincere gratitude goes to our host country, the Philippines and particularly the beautiful city of Manila for the wonderful hospitality and organization. Maraming Salamaat! (Lingua Tagalog – Many thanks! or Grazie mille!)


I have been requested to give an Inspirational message, I do believe that what we need most is to ask the Holy Spirit for his powerful enlightenment, because being a Catholic doctor in an era of secularization and technology, can truly be an uphill struggle.


Today almost every principle of the traditional ethical standard is being questioned. Some interpret the relationship of a physician and a patient as a legal contract instead of moral covenant, others prefer to think of it as a commodity transaction or an exercise in applied biology. Abortions are becoming legal in many countries, confidentiality can be violated in certain circumstances, patient autonomy overrides the physician’s autonomy, physician self-interest is exploited to limit costs in managed health systems, while others defend assisted suicide, as well as direct and indirect euthanasia.


“Most significant in all this is the challenge to the ideal of a profession as a group in society dedicated to a special way of life – a life of service in which self-interest yields to altruism. To practice medicine was tantamount to a vocation in the religious sense.”  There is a growing tendency to look at the medical profession as any other occupation. Medicine as a career (means of livelihood, prestige, power, and advancement) was secondary to medicine as a calling and a vocation.


For many, such ideals are untenable in contemporary socio-cultural milieu. We are experiencing an erosion of moral standards in various spheres of public life, in business, politics and government, such that for an increasing number of people this seems an acceptable reality. Many have abandoned the idea of medicine as profession and a vocation. There has been a progressive descent from vocation to career in medicine.   Pellegrino and Thomasma observed that the common devotion to an ideal is being replaced by confusion, doubt, dissent and depression. Moreover the future of medical ethics is in doubt as a consequence.  There is a growing conviction that old professions like medicine or ministry are not essentially different from business or its occupations, and therefore why should it be held to a standard of altruism. Yet medicine is typically a moral enterprise; it requires a vulnerable person to trust in the competence and goodwill of someone who professes to help. It involves a relationship grounded in the needs of wounded humanity.


Catholic Physician,  above all, have a vocation to the Christian Life. This entails the transformation of your activity to the level of a grace, a way of giving witness to the gospel message. Thus the Charter for Health Care Workers calls you Ministers of Life.  St. John Paul II reminded us that “the Gospel of life is at the heart of Jesus' message. Lovingly received day after day by the Church, it is to be preached with dauntless fidelity as "good news" to the people of every age and culture.”  Moreover, as he affirms, “we are the people of life because God, in his unconditional love, has given us the Gospel of life.”

All of you in your profession, must have experienced already that we live and work in an environment where there is a strong cultural war between the culture of life and the culture of death. It is a challenge but at the same time it is an occasion, a call to witness.

Last September, Pope Francis, while addressing  participants in the meeting organized by the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations, made a strong appeal to Catholic health care workers, which I would like to reiterate here: “be witnesses and diffusers of the “culture of life”.  He said that ‘your being Catholic entails a greater responsibility: first of all to yourselves, through a commitment consistent with your Christian vocation; and then to contemporary culture, by contributing to recognizing the transcendent dimension of human life, the imprint of God's creative work, from the first moment of its conception. This is a task of the new evangelization that often requires going against the tide and paying for it personally. The Lord is also counting on you to spread the “gospel of life.”’

Never fail to ask the Lord and the Virgin Mary for the strength to accomplish your work well and to bear witness courageously — courageously! Today courage is needed — to bear witness courageously to the “gospel of life”! Thank you very much.”

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