(Vatican Radio) Health professionals are the “true personification” of mercy, Pope Francis said Thursday in his address to the Medical Associations of Spain and Latin America in the Clementine Hall at the Vatican. And, he says, it fits with the Jubilee of Mercy to express gratitude for those who through dedication and professionalism help those who suffer.
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The identity of the physician, the Pope said, relies not only on skills but mainly on a compassionate and merciful attitude towards those who suffer in body and spirit. Compassion is the very soul of medicine and compassion is not pity, it is suffering-with.
He continued: Compassion is not always well received in our individualistic and highly technological culture because sometimes it is seen as a humiliation. There are even some who hide behind alleged compassion to justify killing a patient. True compassion, says Pope Francis, does not marginalize, humiliate or exclude and doesn’t celebrate the passing away of a patient. No, this is the triumph of selfishness, of the “culture of disposability” that rejects people who do not meet certain standards of health, beauty or utility.
“Health is one of the most precious gifts and everyone desires it,” Pope Francis said. “The biblical tradition has always highlighted the closeness between salvation and health, as well as their mutual and numerous implications. I like to remember that title with which the Church Fathers employed in reference to Christ and his work of salvation: Christus Medicus. He is the Good Shepherd who cares for the wounded sheep and comforts the sick (cf. Ez 34,16); he is the Good Samaritan who does not pass before the badly injured person by the wayside but, moved by compassion, he heals and serves (cf. Lk 10.33 to 34). Christian medical tradition has always been inspired by the parable of the Good Samaritan. It is identified with the love of the Son of God, who ‘went about doing good and healing all those who were oppressed’ (Acts 10:38). How much good the practice of medicine does in thinking of the sick person as our neighbor, as our flesh and blood, and the mystery of the flesh of Christ himself reflected in his wounded body! ‘Every time you did it to one of these, my brethren, you did it to me’ (Mt 25:40).
Compassion, the Pope continued, is the appropriate response to the immense value of the sick person, a response made of respect, understanding and tenderness, because the sacred value of the life of the patient does not disappear, neither is it ever darkened, but it shines with more splendor precisely in the person’s suffering and helplessness. This is what is understood when St. Camillo de Lellis says with respect to treating patients: "Put more heart in those hands." Fragility, pain and disease are a tough test for everyone, including medical staff; they are a call to patience, to suffer-with; therefore one cannot yield to the temptation to apply quick, merely functional and drastic solutions driven by false compassion or by criteria of efficiency or cost savings. At stake is the dignity of human life; at stake is the dignity of the medical vocation.
Pope Francis concluded by assuring those present of his appreciation for their daily efforts to accompany, nurture and enhance the immense gift of the human person. He asked for the prayers of those present and also asked that they never cease praying for him.
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