Katholieke Stichting Medische Ethiek
23 mei 2022

Catechese over ouderdom

Paus Franciscus
23 februari 2022

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

We have finished the catechesis on St Joseph. Today we begin a catechetical journey that seeks inspiration in the Word of God on the meaning and value of old age. Let us reflect on old age. For some decades now, this stage of life has concerned a veritable “new people”, the elderly. There have never been so many of us in human history. The risk of being discarded is even more frequent: never have so many as now, been at risk of being discarded. The elderly are often seen as ‘a burden’. In the dramatic first phase of the pandemic it was they who paid the highest price. They were already the weakest and most neglected group: we did not look at them too much when they were alive, we did not even see them die. I also found this Charter on the rights of the elderly and the duties of the community: this was edited by governments, it is not edited by the Church, it is a secular thing: it is good, it is interesting, to know that the elderly have rights. It will be good to read it.

Together with migration, old age is one of the most urgent issues facing the human family at this time. It is not just a question of quantitative change; the unity of the stages of life is at stake: that is, the real point of reference for understanding and appreciating human life in its entirety. We ask ourselves: is there friendship, is there cooperation between the different stages of life, or do separation and being discarded prevail? 

We all live in a present where children, young people, adults and the elderly coexist. But the proportion has changed: longevity has become mass and, in large parts of the world, childhood is distributed in small doses. We talked about the winter demographic as well. An imbalance that has many consequences. The dominant culture has as its sole model the young adult, i.e. a self-made individual who always remains young. But is it true that youth contains the full meaning of life, while old age simply represents its emptying and loss? Is that true? Only youth has the full meaning of life, and old age is the emptying of life, the loss of life? The exaltation of youth as the only age worthy of embodying the human ideal, coupled with contempt for old age as frailty, decay, disability, has been the dominant image of twentieth-century totalitarianism. Have we forgotten this? 

The lengthening of life has a structural impact on the history of individuals, families and societies. But we must ask ourselves: is its spiritual quality and its communal sense consistent with this fact? Perhaps the elderly need to apologise for their stubbornness in surviving at the expense of others? Or can they be honoured for the gifts they bring to everyone’s sense of life? In fact, in the representation of the meaning of life – and precisely in so-called ‘developed’ cultures – old age has little incidence. Why? Because it is regarded as an age that has no special content to offer, nor meaning of its own to live. What is more, there is a lack of encouragement for people to seek them out, and a lack of education for the community to recognise them. In short, for an age that is now a decisive part of the community space and extends to a third of the entire life span, there are – at times – care plans, but not projects of existence. Care plans, yes; but not plans to live them to the full. And this is a void of thought, imagination and creativity. Underneath this thinking, what makes a vacuum is that the elderly, the elderly are waste material: in this culture of waste, the elderly are like waste material.

Youth is beautiful, but eternal youth is a very dangerous illusion. Being old is just as important – and beautiful – is equally important as being young. Let us remember this. The alliance between generations, which restores all ages of life to the human, is our lost gift and we have to get it back. It must be found, in this culture of waste and in this culture of productivity.

The Word of God has much to say about this covenant. Just now we heard the prophecy of Joel, the one who began today’s Audience: “Your elders shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions” (3:1). It can be interpreted as follows: when the elderly resist the Spirit, burying their dreams in the past, the young can no longer see the things that must be done to open up the future. When, on the other hand, the old communicate their dreams, the young see clearly what they have to do. Young people who no longer question the dreams of the old, aiming headlong at visions that do not go beyond their noses, will struggle to carry their present and bear their future. If grandparents fall back on their melancholies, young people will look even more to their smartphones. The screen may stay on, but life will die out before its time. Isn’t the most serious backlash of the pandemic precisely in the loss of the young? The old have resources of life already lived that they can call upon at any moment. Will they stand by and watch young people lose their vision, or will they accompany them by warming their dreams? Faced with the dreams of the old, what will the young do?

The wisdom of the long journey that accompanies old age to its close must be experienced as an offer of meaning to life, not consumed as the inertia of its survival. If old age is not restored to the dignity of a humanly worthy life, it is destined to close itself off in a despondency that robs everyone of love. This challenge of humanity and civilisation requires our commitment and God’s help. Let us ask the Holy Spirit. With these catecheses on old age, I would like to encourage everyone to invest their thoughts and affections in the gifts it brings and in the other stages of life. Old age is a gift for all stages of life. It is a gift of maturity, of wisdom. The Word of God will help us discern the meaning and value of old age; may the Holy Spirit grant us too the dreams and visions we need. 

And I would like to emphasise, as we heard in the prophecy of Joel at the beginning, that the important thing is not only that the elderly occupy the place of wisdom they have, of lived history in society, but also that there be a conversation, that they talk to the young. The young must talk to the elderly, and the elderly to the young. And this bridge will be the transmission of wisdom in humanity. I hope that these reflections will be of use to all of us, to carry forward this reality that the prophet Joel said, that in the dialogue between young and old, the old can provide dreams and the young can receive them and carry them forward. Let us not forget that in both family and social culture, the elderly are like the roots of the tree: they have all the history there, and the young are like the flowers and the fruit. If the juice does not come, if this ‘drip’ – let’s say – does not come from the roots, they will never be able to flourish. Let us not forget the poem I have said many times: “All that the tree has that flourishes comes from what it has buried” (“… what the tree has that flourishes lives on what it has buried”, Francisco Luis Bernárdez). Everything beautiful that a society has is related to the roots of the elderly. For this reason, in these catecheses, I would like the figure of the elderly person to come up, to understand well that the elderly person is not a waste material: he/she is a blessing for society. Thank you.


‘Jezus wacht op ons achter de donkere deur van de dood’

Paus Franciscus
9 februari 2022

Beste broeders en zusters, goedemorgen!

In de vorige catechese hebben wij, wederom geïnspireerd door de figuur van de heilige Jozef, nagedacht over de betekenis van de gemeenschap van de heiligen. Juist vanuit dit punt vertrekkend zou ik vandaag de bijzondere devotie willen onderzoeken die de christenen altijd hebben gehad tot de heilige Jozef als de patroonheilige van een goede dood.

Het is een devotie die is ontstaan vanuit de gedachte dat Jozef stierf ondersteund door de Maagd Maria en Jezus, voordat Hij zijn thuis in Nazareth verliet. Er zijn geen historische gegevens bekend, maar aangezien Jozef niet meer naar voren komt tijdens Jezus’ openbare leven, denkt men dat hij in Nazareth is overleden, in bijzijn van zijn familie. Jezus en Maria waren bij hem toen hij stierf.

Via Jozef en Maria naar Jezus

Een eeuw geleden schreef paus Benedictus XV dat “wij via Jozef rechtstreeks naar Maria gaan, en via Maria naar de oorsprong van alle heiligheid, die Jezus is”. Zowel Jozef als Maria helpen ons om naar Jezus te gaan. En ter aanmoediging van de devotie tot de heilige Jozef, beval de paus er een in het bijzonder aan:

“Aangezien hij terecht als de meest doeltreffende beschermer van de stervenden wordt beschouwd, daar hij met de steun van Jezus en Maria is heengegaan, zal het de zorg van de heilige herders zijn om (…) die vrome verenigingen te steunen en te bevorderen die in het leven zijn geroepen om de hulp van Jozef voor de stervenden af te smeken, zoals die ‘van de goede dood’, van ‘de overtocht van de heilige Jozef’ en ‘voor de stervenden” (Motu proprio Bonum sane, 25 juli 1920). Dat waren de verenigingen van die tijd.

Donkere deur van de dood

Beste broeders en zusters, misschien denken sommigen dat dit woordgebruik en dit thema slechts een erfenis uit het verleden zijn, maar in werkelijkheid gaat onze relatie met de dood nooit over het verleden, zij is altijd aanwezig.

Emeritus-paus Benedictus XVI zei enkele dagen geleden, sprekend over zichzelf, dat hij “voor de donkere deur van de dood staat”. Het is mooi om paus Benedictus te bedanken die op 95-jarige leeftijd de helderheid van geest heeft om ons dit te zeggen: “Ik sta voor de duisternis van de dood, de donkere deur van de dood”. Het is een prachtig advies dat hij ons heeft gegeven!

Coronavirus

De zogenaamde wellnesscultuur probeert de realiteit van de dood weg te nemen, maar op dramatische wijze heeft de pandemie van het coronavirus deze weer onder de aandacht gebracht. Het was verschrikkelijk: de dood was overal, en talloze broeders en zusters verloren geliefden zonder dat zij in hun nabijheid konden verkeren, en dit maakte de dood nog moeilijker te aanvaarden en te verwerken.

Een verpleegster vertelde me dat een grootmoeder met corona stervende was, en ze zei tegen haar: “Ik zou graag afscheid nemen van mijn familie voor ik vertrek.” En de dappere verpleegster pakte de mobiele telefoon en verbond haar door. De tederheid van dat afscheid…

Desondanks proberen wij op alle mogelijke manieren de gedachte aan onze eindigheid uit te bannen, waardoor wij onszelf wijsmaken dat wij de macht van de dood wegnemen en de angst uitbannen. Maar het christelijk geloof is geen manier om de angst voor de dood te bezweren, het helpt ons die angst onder ogen te zien. Vroeg of laat gaan we allemaal door die deur.

Het ware licht

Het ware licht dat het mysterie van de dood verlicht, komt van Christus’ verrijzenis. Dat is het licht. En de apostel Paulus schrijft: “En als wij verkondigen dat Christus uit de doden is opgestaan, hoe kunnen dan sommigen onder u beweren, dat er geen opstanding van de doden bestaat? Als er geen opstanding van de doden bestaat, is ook Christus niet verrezen. En wanneer Christus niet is verrezen, is onze prediking zonder inhoud en uw geloof eveneens” (1 Kor. 15,12-14).

Er is één zekerheid: Christus is verrezen, Christus is opgestaan, Christus leeft onder ons. En Hij is het licht dat op ons wacht achter die donkere deur van de dood.

Een positieve rol voor de dood

Beste broeders en zusters, alleen door het geloof in de verrijzenis kunnen wij de afgrond van de dood trotseren zonder door angst te worden overweldigd. Niet alleen dat, maar we kunnen de dood een positieve rol geven. Nadenken over de dood, verlicht door het mysterie van Christus, helpt ons om het hele leven met nieuwe ogen te bekijken.

Ik heb nog nooit een verhuiswagen achter een lijkwagen zien rijden! Ik heb het nog nooit gezien. We gaan alleen, met niets in onze zakken, niets. Omdat de lijkwade geen zakken heeft. De eenzaamheid van de dood: het klopt, ik heb nog nooit een verhuiswagen achter een lijkwagen zien rijden.

Het heeft geen zin te van alles te verzamelen als we op een dag zullen sterven. Wat we moeten verzamelen is naastenliefde, het vermogen om te delen, het vermogen om niet onverschillig te staan tegenover de noden van anderen.

Wat is het nut van boos worden?

Wat heeft het voor zin om ruzie te maken met een broer of zus, met een vriend, met een familielid, of met een broeder of zuster in het geloof als we op een dag zullen sterven? Wat is het nut van boos worden, van boos worden op anderen? In het aangezicht van de dood, worden zoveel kwesties kleiner. Het is goed om verzoend te sterven, zonder wrok en zonder spijt! Ik wil iets waars zeggen: we zijn allemaal op weg naar die deur, wij allemaal.

Het Evangelie zegt ons dat de dood komt als een dief; Jezus zegt: hij komt als een dief, en hoezeer wij ook proberen zijn komst te controleren, misschien zelfs onze eigen dood te plannen, het blijft een gebeurtenis waarmee wij rekening moeten houden en waarvoor wij ook keuzes moeten maken.

Twee overwegingen springen er voor ons christenen uit. De eerste is dat we de dood niet kunnen vermijden. Het is juist daarom dat, nadat alles is gedaan wat menselijkerwijs mogelijk is om de zieke te genezen, het immoreel is om aan ’therapeutische koppigheid’ te doen (vgl. Catechismus van de Katholieke Kerk, n. 2278).

Die uitdrukking van Gods trouwe volk, van eenvoudige mensen: “Laat hem in vrede sterven”, “help hem in vrede te sterven”: hoe wijs!

Palliatieve zorg

De tweede overweging betreft de kwaliteit van de dood zelf, de kwaliteit van de pijn, van het lijden. Wij moeten dankbaar zijn voor alle hulp die de geneeskunde tracht te bieden, zodat via de zogenaamde palliatieve zorg ieder mens die op het punt staat het laatste stuk van zijn of haar leven te beleven, dit op de meest menselijke wijze kan doen.

We moeten echter oppassen dat we deze hulp niet verwarren met wat onaanvaardbare neigingen tot doden zijn. We moeten mensen begeleiden naar hun dood, maar niet de dood uitlokken of enige vorm van zelfdoding steunen.

Leven is een recht, niet de dood

Ik wil erop wijzen dat het recht van eenieder op zorg en behandeling altijd voorrang moet krijgen, zodat de zwaksten, met name ouderen en zieken, nooit aan hun lot worden overgelaten. Leven is een recht, niet de dood, die moet worden verwelkomd, niet toegediend.

En dit ethische principe gaat iedereen aan, niet alleen christenen of gelovigen. Ik wil hier de nadruk leggen op een sociaal, maar wel een reëel probleem. Dat ‘plannen’ – ik weet niet of dit het juiste woord is – maar het versnellen van de dood van ouderen. Vaak zien we in een bepaalde sociale klasse dat ouderen, omdat ze de middelen niet hebben, minder medicijnen krijgen dan ze nodig hebben, en dat is onmenselijk: het helpt hen niet, het drijft hen eerder naar de dood. En dit is noch menselijk, noch christelijk.

Schat van de mensheid

De ouderen moeten worden verzorgd als een schat van de mensheid: zij zijn onze wijsheid. Ook al spreken zij niet en hebben zij geen betekenis, toch zijn zij het symbool van menselijke wijsheid. Zij zijn degenen die ons zijn voorgegaan en ons zoveel moois, zoveel herinneringen, zoveel wijsheid hebben nagelaten.

Isoleer de ouderen alstublieft niet, bespoedig de dood van de ouderen niet. Het strelen van een bejaarde heeft dezelfde hoop als het strelen van een kind, want het begin en het einde van een leven is altijd een mysterie, een mysterie dat moet worden gerespecteerd, begeleid, verzorgd, bemind.

Gods barmhartigheid

Moge de heilige Jozef ons helpen het mysterie van de dood op de best mogelijke manier te beleven. Voor een christen is de goede dood een ervaring van Gods barmhartigheid, die ons zelfs in dat laatste ogenblik van ons leven nabij komt.

Zelfs in het Weesgegroet bidden we Onze Lieve Vrouw om ons nabij te zijn “in het uur van onze dood”. Juist daarom wil ik deze catechese afsluiten met samen tot Onze Lieve Vrouw te bidden voor de stervenden, voor hen die door deze donkere deur gaan, en voor familieleden die rouwen.

Bidden we samen: Wees gegroet Maria…


Overgenomen met toestemming van Katholiek Nieuwsblad.


Verantwoordelijkheid voor eigen gezondheid en die van anderen is een morele verplichting

Pope Francis
10 January 2022

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen!

Yesterday concluded the liturgical season of Christmas, a privileged period for cultivating family relationships, from which we can at times be distracted and distant due to our many commitments during the year. Today we want to continue in that spirit, as we once more come together as a large family which discusses and dialogues. In the end, that is the aim of all diplomacy: to help resolve disagreements arising from human coexistence, to foster harmony and to realize that, once we pass beyond conflict, we can recover a sense of the profound unity of all reality.

I am therefore particularly grateful to you for taking part today in our annual “family gathering”, a propitious occasion for exchanging good wishes for the New Year and for considering together the lights and shadows of our time. I especially thank the Dean, His Excellency Mr George Poulides, the Ambassador of Cyprus, for his gracious address to me in the name of the entire Diplomatic Corps. Through all of you, I extend my affectionate greetings to the peoples you represent.

Your presence is always a tangible sign of the attention your countries devote to the Holy See and its role in the international community. Many of you have come from other capital cities for today’s event, thus joining the numerous Ambassadors residing in Rome, who will soon be joined by the Swiss Confederation.

Dear Ambassadors,

In these days, we are conscious that the fight against the pandemic still calls for a significant effort on the part of everyone; certainly, the New Year will continue to be demanding in this regard. The coronavirus continues to cause social isolation and to take lives. Among those who have died, I would like to mention the late Archbishop Aldo Giordano, an Apostolic Nuncio who was well-known and respected in the diplomatic community. At the same time, we have realized that in those places where an effective vaccination campaign has taken place, the risk of severe repercussions of the disease has decreased.

It is therefore important to continue the effort to immunize the general population as much as possible. This calls for a manifold commitment on the personal, political and international levels. First, on the personal level. Each of us has a responsibility to care for ourself and our health, and this translates into respect for the health of those around us. Health care is a moral obligation. Sadly, we are finding increasingly that we live in a world of strong ideological divides. Frequently people let themselves be influenced by the ideology of the moment, often bolstered by baseless information or poorly documented facts. Every ideological statement severs the bond of human reason with the objective reality of things. The pandemic, on the other hand, urges us to adopt a sort of “reality therapy” that makes us confront the problem head on and adopt suitable remedies to resolve it. Vaccines are not a magical means of healing, yet surely they represent, in addition to other treatments that need to be developed, the most reasonable solution for the prevention of the disease.

A political commitment is thus needed to pursue the good of the general population through measures of prevention and immunization that also engage citizens so that they can feel involved and responsible, thanks to a clear discussion of the problems and the appropriate means of addressing them. The lack of resolute decision-making and clear communication generates confusion, creates mistrust and undermines social cohesion, fueling new tensions. The result is a “social relativism” detrimental to harmony and unity.

In the end, a comprehensive commitment on the part of the international community is necessary, so that the entire world population can have equal access to essential medical care and vaccines. We can only note with regret that, for large areas of the world, universal access to health care remains an illusion. At this grave moment in the life of humanity, I reiterate my appeal that governments and concerned private entities demonstrate a sense of responsibility, developing a coordinated response at every level (local, national, regional, global), through new models of solidarity and tools to strengthen the capabilities of those countries in greatest need. In particular, I would urge all states, who are working to establish an international instrument on pandemic preparedness and response under the aegis of the World Health Organization, to adopt a policy of generous sharing as a key principle to guarantee everyone access to diagnostic tools, vaccines and drugs. Likewise, it is appropriate that institutions such as the World Trade Organization and the World Intellectual Property Organization adapt their legal instruments lest monopolistic rules constitute further obstacles to production and to an organized and consistent access to healthcare on a global level.

Dear Ambassadors,

Last year, thanks also to the lessening of the restrictions put in place in 2020, I had occasion to receive many Heads of State and Governments, as well as various civil and religious authorities.

Among those many meetings, I would like to mention that of 1 July 2021, devoted to reflection and prayer for Lebanon. To the beloved Lebanese people, who are working to find a solution to the economic and political crisis that has gripped the nation, I wish today to renew my closeness and my prayers. At the same time, I trust that necessary reforms and the support of the international community will help the country to persevere in its proper identity as a model of peaceful coexistence and brotherhood among the different religions.

In the course of 2021, I was also able to resume my Apostolic Journeys. In March, I had the joy of travelling to Iraq. Providence willed this, as a sign of hope after years of war and terrorism. The Iraqi people have the right to regain their dignity and to live in peace. Their religious and cultural roots go back thousands of years: Mesopotamia is a cradle of civilization; it is from there that God called Abraham to inaugurate the history of salvation.

In September, I travelled to Budapest for the conclusion of the International Eucharistic Congress, and thereafter to Slovakia. It was an opportunity for me to meet with the Catholic faithful and Christians of other confessions, and to dialogue with the Jewish community. I likewise travelled to Cyprus and Greece, a Journey that remains vivid in my memory. That visit allowed me to deepen ties with our Orthodox brothers and to experience the fraternity existing between the various Christian confessions.

A very moving part of that Journey was my visit to the island of Lesbos, where I was able to see at first hand the generosity of all those working to provide hospitality and assistance to migrants, but above all, to see the faces of the many children and adults who are guests of these centres of hospitality. Their eyes spoke of the effort of their journey, their fear of an uncertain future, their sorrow for the loved ones they left behind and their nostalgia for the homeland they were forced to depart. Before those faces, we cannot be indifferent or hide behind walls and barbed wires under the pretext of defending security or a style of life. This we cannot do.

Consequently, I thank all those individuals and governments working to ensure that migrants are welcomed and protected, and to support their human promotion and integration in the countries that have received them. I am aware of the difficulties that some states encounter in the face of a large influx of people. No one can be asked to do what is impossible for them, yet there is a clear difference between accepting, albeit in a limited way, and rejecting completely.

There is a need to overcome indifference and to reject the idea that migrants are a problem for others. The results of this approach are evident in the dehumanization of those migrants concentrated in hotspots where they end up as easy prey to organized crime and human traffickers, or engage in desperate attempts to escape that at times end in death. Sadly, we must also note that migrants are themselves often turned into a weapon of political blackmail, becoming a sort of “bargaining commodity” that deprives them of their dignity.

Here I would like to renew my gratitude to the Italian authorities, thanks to whom several persons were able to come with me to Rome from Cyprus and Greece. This was a simple yet meaningful gesture. To the Italian people, who suffered greatly at the beginning of the pandemic, but who have also shown encouraging signs of recovery, I express my heartfelt hope that they will always maintain their characteristic spirit of generosity, openness and solidarity.

At the same time, I consider it essential that the European Union arrive at internal cohesion in handling migration movements, just as it did in dealing with the effects of the pandemic. There is a need to adopt a coherent and comprehensive system for coordinating policies on migration and asylum, with a view to sharing responsibility for the reception of migrants, the review of requests for asylum, and the redistribution and integration of those who can be accepted. The capacity to negotiate and discover shared solutions is one of the strong points of the European Union; it represents a sound model for a farsighted approach to the global challenges before us.

Nonetheless, the migration issue does not regard Europe alone, even though it is especially affected by waves of migrants coming from Africa and from Asia. In recent years, we have witnessed, among others, an exodus of Syrian refugees and, more recently, the many people who have fled Afghanistan. Nor can we overlook the massive migration movements on the American continent, which press upon the border between Mexico and the United States of America. Many of those migrants are Haitians fleeing the tragedies that have struck their country in recent years.

The issue of migration, together with the pandemic and climate change, has clearly demonstrated that we cannot be saved alone and by ourselves: the great challenges of our time are all global. It is thus troubling that, alongside the greater interconnection of problems, we are seeing a growing fragmentation of solutions. It is not uncommon to encounter unwillingness to open windows of dialogue and spaces of fraternity; this only fuels further tensions and divisions, as well as a generalized feeling of uncertainty and instability. What is needed instead is a recovery of our sense of shared identity as a single human family. The alternative can only be growing isolation, marked by a reciprocal rejection and refusal that further endangers multilateralism, the diplomatic style that has characterized international relations from the end of the Second World War to the present time.

For some time now, multilateral diplomacy has been experiencing a crisis of trust, due to the reduced credibility of social, governmental and intergovernmental systems. Important resolutions, declarations and decisions are frequently made without a genuine process of negotiation in which all countries have a say. This imbalance, now dramatically evident, has generated disaffection towards international agencies on the part of many states; it also weakens the multilateral system as a whole, with the result that it becomes less and less effective in confronting global challenges.

The diminished effectiveness of many international organizations is also due to their members entertaining differing visions of the ends they wish to pursue. Not infrequently, the centre of interest has shifted to matters that by their divisive nature do not strictly belong to the aims of the organization. As a result, agendas are increasingly dictated by a mindset that rejects the natural foundations of humanity and the cultural roots that constitute the identity of many peoples. As I have stated on other occasions, I consider this a form of ideological colonization, one that leaves no room for freedom of expression and is now taking the form of the “cancel culture” invading many circles and public institutions. Under the guise of defending diversity, it ends up cancelling all sense of identity, with the risk of silencing positions that defend a respectful and balanced understanding of various sensibilities. A kind of dangerous “one-track thinking” [pensée unique] is taking shape, one constrained to deny history or, worse yet, to rewrite it in terms of present-day categories, whereas any historical situation must be interpreted in the light of a hermeneutics of that particular time, not that of today.

Multilateral diplomacy is thus called to be truly inclusive, not canceling but cherishing the differences and sensibilities that have historically marked various peoples. In this way, it will regain credibility and effectiveness in facing the challenges to come, which will require humanity to join together as one great family that, starting from different viewpoints, should prove capable of finding common solutions for the good of all. This calls for reciprocal trust and willingness to dialogue; it entails “listening to one another, sharing different views, coming to agreement and walking together”. Indeed, “dialogue is the best way to realize what ought always to be affirmed and respected apart from any ephemeral consensus”. Nor should we overlook “the existence of certain enduring values”. Those are not always easy to discern, but their acceptance “makes for a robust and solid social ethics. Once those fundamental values are adopted through dialogue and consensus, we realize that they rise above consensus”. Here I wish to mention in particular the right to life, from conception to its natural end, and the right to religious freedom.

In this regard, in recent years we have seen a growing collective awareness of the urgent need to care for our common home, which is suffering from the constant and indiscriminate exploitation of its resources. Here I think especially of the Philippines, struck in these last weeks by a devastating typhoon, and of other nations in the Pacific, made vulnerable by the negative effects of climate change, which endanger the lives of their inhabitants, most of whom are dependent on agriculture, fishing and natural resources.

Precisely this realization should impel the international community as a whole to discover and implement common solutions. None may consider themselves exempt from this effort, since all of us are involved and affected in equal measure. At the recent COP26 in Glasgow, several steps were made in the right direction, even though they were rather weak in light of the gravity of the problem to be faced. The road to meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement is complex and appears to be long, while the time at our disposal is shorter and shorter. Much still remains to be done, and so 2022 will be another fundamental year for verifying to what extent and in what ways the decisions taken in Glasgow can and should be further consolidated in view of COP27, planned for Egypt next November.

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen!

Dialogue and fraternity are two essential focal points in our efforts to overcome the crisis of the present moment. Yet “despite numerous efforts aimed at constructive dialogue between nations, the deafening noise of war and conflict is intensifying”. The entire international community must address the urgent need to find solutions to endless conflicts that at times appear as true proxy wars.

I think first of Syria, where the country’s rebirth does not yet clearly appear on the horizon. Even today, the Syrian people mourn their dead and the loss of everything, and continue to hope for a better future. Political and constitutional reforms are required for the country to be reborn, but the imposition of sanctions should not strike directly at everyday life, in order to provide a glimmer of hope to the general populace, increasingly caught in the grip of poverty.

Nor can we overlook the conflict in Yemen, a human tragedy that has gone on for years, silently, far from the spotlight of the media and with a certain indifference on the part of the international community, even as it continues to claim numerous civil victims, particularly women and children.

In the past year, no steps forward were made in the peace process between Israel and Palestine. I would truly like to see these two peoples rebuild mutual trust and resume speaking directly to each other, in order to reach the point where they can live in two states, side by side, in peace and security, without hatred and resentment, but the healing born of mutual forgiveness.

Other sources of concern are the institutional tensions in Libya, the episodes of violence by international terrorism in the Sahel region, and the internal conflicts in Sudan, South Sudan and Ethiopia, where there is need “to find once again the path of reconciliation and peace through a forthright encounter that places the needs of the people above all else”.

Profound situations of inequality and injustice, endemic corruption and various forms of poverty that offend the dignity of persons also continue to fuel social conflicts on the American continent, where growing polarization is not helping to resolve the real and pressing problems of its people, especially those who are most poor and vulnerable.

Reciprocal trust and readiness to engage in calm discussion should also inspire all parties at stake, so that acceptable and lasting solutions can be found in Ukraine and in the southern Caucasus, and the outbreak of new crises can be avoided in the Balkans, primarily in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Dialogue and fraternity are all the more urgently needed for dealing wisely and effectively with the crisis which for almost a year now has affected Myanmar; its streets, once places of encounter, are now the scene of fighting that does not spare even houses of prayer.

Naturally, these conflicts are exacerbated by the abundance of weapons on hand and the unscrupulousness of those who make every effort to supply them. At times, we deceive ourselves into thinking that these weapons serve to dissuade potential aggressors. History and, sadly, even daily news reports, make it clear that this is not the case. Those who possess weapons will eventually use them, since as Saint Paul VI observed, “a person cannot love with offensive weapons in his hands”. Furthermore, “When we yield to the logic of arms and distance ourselves from the practice of dialogue, we forget to our detriment that, even before causing victims and ruination, weapons can create nightmares”. Today these concerns have become even more real, if we consider the availability and employment of autonomous weapon systems that can have terrible and unforeseen consequences, and should be subject to the responsibility of the international community.

Among the weapons humanity has produced, nuclear arms are of particular concern. At the end of December last, the Tenth Review Conference of the parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which was to meet in New York in these days, was once again postponed due to the pandemic. A world free of nuclear arms is possible and necessary. I therefore express my hope that the international community will view that Conference as an opportunity to take a significant step in this direction. The Holy See continues steadfastly to maintain that in the twenty-first century nuclear arms are an inadequate and inappropriate means of responding to security threats, and that possession of them is immoral. Their production diverts resources from integral human development and their employment not only has catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences, but also threatens the very existence of humanity.

The Holy See likewise considers it important that the resumption of negotiations in Vienna on the nuclear accord with Iran (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) achieve positive results, in order to guarantee a more secure and fraternal world.

Dear Ambassadors!

In my Message for the World Day of Peace celebrated on 1 January last, I sought to highlight several factors that I consider essential for promoting a culture of dialogue and fraternity.

Education holds a special place, since it trains the younger generation, the future and hope of the world. Education is in fact the primary vehicle of integral human development, for it makes individuals free and responsible. The educational process is slow and laborious, and can lead at times to discouragement, but we can never abandon it. It is an outstanding expression of dialogue, for no true education can lack a dialogical structure. Education likewise gives rise to culture and builds bridges of encounter between peoples. The Holy See wished to stress the importance of education also by its participation in Expo 2021 in Dubai, with a pavilion inspired by the theme of the Expo: “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future”.

The Catholic Church has always recognized and valued the role of education in the spiritual, moral and social growth of the young. It pains me, then, to acknowledge that in different educational settings – parishes and schools – the abuse of minors has occurred, resulting in serious psychological and spiritual consequences for those who experienced them. These are crimes, and they call for a firm resolve to investigate them fully, examining each case to ascertain responsibility, to ensure justice to the victims and to prevent similar atrocities from taking place in the future.

Despite the gravity of such acts, no society can ever abdicate its responsibility for education. Yet, regrettably, state budgets often allocate few resources for education, which tends to be viewed as an expense, instead of the best possible investment for the future.

The pandemic prevented many young people from attending school, to the detriment of their personal and social development. Modern technology enabled many young people to take refuge in virtual realities that create strong psychological and emotional links but isolate them from others and the world around them, radically modifying social relationships. In making this point, I in no way intend to deny the usefulness of technology and its products, which make it possible for us to connect with one another easily and quickly, but I do appeal urgently that we be watchful lest these instruments substitute for true human relationships at the interpersonal, familial, social and international levels. If we learn to isolate ourselves at an early age, it will later prove more difficult to build bridges of fraternity and peace. In a world where there is just “me”, it is difficult to make room for “us”.

The second thing that I would like to mention briefly is labour, “an indispensable factor in building and keeping peace. Labour is an expression of ourselves and our gifts, but also of our commitment, self-investment and cooperation with others, since we always work with or for someone else. Seen in this clearly social perspective, the workplace enables us to learn to make our contribution towards a more habitable and beautiful world”.

We have seen that the pandemic has sorely tested the global economy, with serious repercussions on those families and workers who experienced situations of psychological distress even before the onset of the economic troubles. This has further highlighted persistent inequalities in various social and economic sectors. Here we can include access to clean water, food, education and medical care. The number of people falling under the category of extreme poverty has shown a marked increase. In addition, the health crisis forced many workers to change professions, and in some cases forced them to enter the underground economy, causing them to lose the social protections provided for in many countries.

In this context, we see even more clearly the importance of labour, since economic development cannot exist without it, nor can it be thought that modern technology can replace the surplus value of human labour. Human labour provides an opportunity for the discovery of our personal dignity, for encounter with others and for human growth; it is a privileged means whereby each person participates actively in the common good and offers a concrete contribution to peace. Here too, greater cooperation is needed among all actors on the local, national, regional and global levels, especially in the short term, given the challenges posed by the desired ecological conversion. The coming years will be a time of opportunity for developing new services and enterprises, adapting existing ones, increasing access to dignified work and devising new means of ensuring respect for human rights and adequate levels of remuneration and social protection.

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The prophet Jeremiah tells us that God has “plans for [our] welfare and not for evil, to give [us] a future and a hope” (29:11). We should be unafraid, then, to make room for peace in our lives by cultivating dialogue and fraternity among one another. The gift of peace is “contagious”; it radiates from the hearts of those who long for it and aspire to share it, and spreads throughout the whole world. To each of you, your families and the peoples you represent, I renew my blessing and offer my heartfelt good wishes for a year of serenity and peace.

Thank you!


Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful

Message for the thirtieth World Day of the Sick, February 11, 2022

Pope Francis
February 11, 2022

“Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Lk 6:36). Standing beside those who suffer on a path of charity

Dear brothers and sisters,

Thirty years ago, Saint John Paul II instituted the World Day of the Sick to encourage the people of God, Catholic health institutions and civil society to be increasingly attentive to the sick and to those who care for them.

We are grateful to the Lord for the progress made over the years in the particular Churches worldwide. Many advances have been made, yet there is still a long way to go in ensuring that all the sick, also those living in places and situations of great poverty and marginalization, receive the health care they need, as well as the pastoral care that can help them experience their sickness in union with the crucified and risen Christ. May the Thirtieth World Day of the Sick – whose closing celebration, due to the pandemic, will not take place as planned in Arequipa, Peru, but in Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican – help us grow in closeness and service to the sick and to their families.

1. Merciful like the Father

The theme chosen for this Thirtieth World Day of the Sick, “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Lk 6:36), makes us first turn our gaze towards God, who is “rich in mercy” (Eph 2:4); he always watches over his children with a father’s love, even when they turn away from him. Mercy is God’s name par excellence; mercy, understood not as an occasional sentimental feeling but as an ever-present and active force, expresses God’s very nature. It combines strength and tenderness. For this reason, we can say with wonder and gratitude that God’s mercy embraces both fatherhood and motherhood (cf. Is 49:15). God cares for us with the strength of a father and the tenderness of a mother; he unceasingly desires to give us new life in the Holy Spirit.

2. Jesus, the mercy of the Father

The supreme witness of the Father’s merciful love for the sick is his only-begotten Son. How often do the Gospels relate Jesus’ encounters with people suffering from various diseases! He “went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity among the people” (Mt 4:23). We do well to ask ourselves why Jesus showed such great concern for the sick, so much so that he made it paramount in the mission of the apostles, who were sent by the Master to proclaim the Gospel and to heal the sick (cf. Lk 9:2).

One twentieth-century philosopher suggests a reason for this: “Pain isolates in an absolute way, and absolute isolation gives rise to the need to appeal to the other, to call out to the other”. When individuals experience frailty and suffering in their own flesh as a result of illness, their hearts become heavy, fear spreads, uncertainties multiply, and questions about the meaning of what is happening in their lives become all the more urgent. How can we forget, in this regard, all those patients who, during this time of pandemic spent the last part of their earthly life in solitude, in an intensive care unit, assisted by generous healthcare workers, yet far from their loved ones and the most important people in their lives? This helps us to see how important is the presence at our side of witnesses to God’s charity, who, following the example of Jesus, the very mercy of the Father, pour the balm of consolation and the wine of hope on the wounds of the sick.

3. To touch the suffering flesh of Christ

Jesus’ invitation to be merciful like the Father has particular significance for healthcare workers. I think of all those physicians, nurses, laboratory technicians, the support staff and the caretakers of the sick, as well as the numerous volunteers who donate their precious time to assist those who suffer. Dear healthcare workers, your service alongside the sick, carried out with love and competence, transcends the bounds of your profession and becomes a mission. Your hands, which touch the suffering flesh of Christ, can be a sign of the merciful hands of the Father. Be mindful of the great dignity of your profession, as well as the responsibility that it entails.

Let us thank the Lord for the progress that medical science has made, especially in recent times; new technologies have made it possible to prepare therapies that are of great benefit to the sick; research continues to make a valuable contribution to eliminating old and new pathologies; rehabilitation medicine has greatly expanded its expertise and skills. None of this, however, must make us forget the uniqueness of each patient, his or her dignity and frailties. Patients are always more important than their diseases, and for this reason, no therapeutic approach can prescind from listening to the patient, his or her history, anxieties and fears. Even when healing is not possible, care can always be given. It is always possible to console, it is always possible to make people sense a closeness that is more interested in the person than in his or her pathology. For this reason, I would hope that the training provided to health workers might enable them to develop a capacity for listening and relating to others.

4. Centres of care as “houses of mercy”

The World Day of the Sick is also a good occasion to focus our attention on centres of care. Down the centuries, showing mercy to the sick led the Christian community to open innumerable “inns of the good Samaritan”, where love and care can be given to people with various kinds of sickness, especially those whose health needs are not being met due to poverty or social exclusion or to the difficulties associated with treating certain pathologies. In these situations, it is children, the elderly and those who are most frail who most often pay the price. Merciful like the Father, countless missionaries have combined the preaching of the Gospel with the construction of hospitals, dispensaries and care homes. These are precious means whereby Christian charity has taken visible shape and the love of Christ, witnessed by that of his disciples, has become more credible. I think especially of people in the poorest areas of our planet, where it is sometimes necessary to travel long distances to find treatment centres that, albeit with limited resources, offer what is available. We still have a long way to go; in some countries, access to adequate care remains a luxury. We see this, for example, in the scarcity of available vaccines against Covid-19 in poor countries; but even more in the lack of treatment for illnesses that require much simpler medicines.

In this context, I wish to reaffirm the importance of Catholic healthcare institutions: they are a precious treasure to be protected and preserved; their presence has distinguished the history of the Church, showing her closeness to the sick and the poor, and to situations overlooked by others. How many founders of religious families have listened to the cry of their brothers and sisters who lack access to care or are poorly cared for, and have given their utmost in their service! Today too, even in the most developed countries, their presence is a blessing, since in addition to caring for the body with all necessary expertise, they can always offer the gift of charity, which focuses on the sick themselves and their families. At a time in which the culture of waste is widespread and life is not always acknowledged as worthy of being welcomed and lived, these structures, like “houses of mercy”, can be exemplary in protecting and caring for all life, even the most fragile, from its beginning until its natural end.

5. Pastoral mercy: presence and proximity

In the past thirty years, pastoral health care has also seen its indispensable service increasingly recognized. If the worst discrimination suffered by the poor – including the sick, who are poor in health – is the lack of spiritual attention, we cannot fail to offer them God’s closeness, his blessing and his word, as well as the celebration of the sacraments and the opportunity for a journey of growth and maturation in faith. In this regard, I would like to remind everyone that closeness to the sick and their pastoral care is not only the task of certain specifically designated ministers; visiting the sick is an invitation that Christ addresses to all his disciples. How many sick and elderly people are living at home and waiting for a visit! The ministry of consolation is a task for every baptized person, mindful of the word of Jesus: “I was sick and you visited me” ( Mt 25:36).

Dear brothers and sisters, to the intercession of Mary, Health of the Infirm, I entrust all the sick and their families. United with Christ, who bears the pain of the world, may they find meaning, consolation and trust. I pray for healthcare workers everywhere, that, rich in mercy, they may offer patients, together with suitable care, their fraternal closeness.

To all I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.

Rome, Saint John Lateran, 10 December 2021, Memorial of Our Lady of Loreto.


We verliezen compassie

Homily held in the Holy Mass on the 60th anniversary of the inauguration of the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart

Pope Francis
5 November 2021

As we commemorate with gratitude the gift of this seat of the Catholic University, I would like to share with you some thoughts in relation to its name. It is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, as is this day, the first Friday of the month. Contemplating the Heart of Jesus, we can let ourselves be guided by three words: memory, passion and consolation.

Remembrance. To remember [in Italian, ricordare], means “to return to the heart, to return with the heart”. Ri-cordare. What does the Sacred Heart of Jesus make us return to? To what He did for us: the Heart of Christ shows us Jesus who offers Himself, it is the compendium of his mercy. Looking at it – like John did in the Gospel (19: 31-37), it comes naturally to us to remember his goodness, which is freely given, which can be neither bought nor sold; and unconditional, it does not depend on our actions, it is sovereign. And it is moving. In today’s haste, in the midst of a thousand errands and continuous worries, we are losing the capacity to be moved and to feel compassion, because we are losing this return to the heart, that is, this memory, this return to the heart. Without memory one loses one’s roots, and without roots, one does not grow. It is good for us to nurture the memory of who has loved us, cared for us, and lifted us up. I would like to renew today my “thanks” for the care and the affection I have received here. I believe that in this time of the pandemic it is good for us to remember even of the times we have suffered the most: not to make us sad, but so as not to forget, and to guide us in our choices in the light of a very recent past.

I wonder: how does our memory work? To simplify, we could say that we remember someone or something when it touches our heart, when it binds us to a particular affection or lack of affection. And so the Heart of Jesus heals our memory because it brings it back to the fundamental affection. It roots it on the most solid base. It reminds us that, whatever happens to us in life, we are loved. Yes, we are loved beings, children whom the Father loves always and, in any case, brothers and sisters for whom the Heart of Christ beats. Every time we peer into that Heart we discover ourselves “rooted and grounded in love”, as the Apostle Paul said in today’s first reading (Eph 3:17).

Let us cultivate this memory, which is strengthened when we are face to face with the Lord, especially when we let ourselves be looked upon and loved by Him in adoration. But we can also cultivate among ourselves the art of remembering, of treasuring the faces we meet. I think of the tiring days in hospital, at university, at work. We run the risk that everything will pass without a trace, or that only fatigue and tiredness will remain. It is good for us, in the evening, to look back on the faces we have met, the smiles we have received, the good words. They are memories of love and they help our memory to find itself again: may our memory find itself again. How important these memories are in hospitals! They can give meaning to a sick person’s day. A fraternal word, a smile, a caress on the face: these are memories that heal inside, they do the heart good. Let us not forget the therapy of remembering: it does so much good!

Passion is the second word. Passion. The first is memory, remembering; the second is passion. The Heart of Christ is not a pious devotion, so as to feel a little warmth inside; it is not a tender image that arouses affection, no, it is not that. It is a passionate heart – just read the Gospel -, a heart wounded with love, torn open for us on the cross. We have heard how the Gospel speaks of it: “One of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water” (Jn 19:34). Pierced, He gives; in death, He gives us life. The Sacred Heart is the icon of the Passion: it shows us God’s visceral tenderness, his loving passion for us, and at the same time, surmounted by the cross and surrounded by thorns, it shows us how much suffering our salvation cost. In its tenderness and pain, that Heart reveals, in short, what God’s passion is. What is it? Man, us. And what is God’s style? Closeness, compassion and tenderness. This is God’s style: closeness, compassion and tenderness.

What does this suggest? That, if we really want to love God, we must be passionate about humanity, about all humanity, especially those who live the condition in which the Heart of Jesus was manifested, that is, pain, abandonment and rejection; especially in this throwaway culture that we live in today. When we serve those who suffer we console and rejoice in the Heart of Christ. One passage in the Gospel is striking. John the Evangelist, at the very moment when he recounts the pierced side, from which blood and water flow, bears witness so that we may believe (cf. v. 35). Saint John writes, that is, that at that moment the testimony occurs. Because the pierced Heart of God is eloquent. It speaks without words, because it is mercy in its pure state, love that is wounded and gives life. It is God, with closeness, compassion and tenderness. How many words we say about God without showing love! But love speaks for itself, it does not speak of itself. Let us ask for the grace to become passionate about the man who suffers, to become passionate about service, so that the Church, before having words to say, may keep a heart that beats with love. Before speaking, may she learn to safeguard her heart in love.

The third word is comfort. The first was remembrance, the second passion, the third is consolation. It indicates a strength that does not come from us, but from those who are with us: that is where strength comes from. Jesus, the God-with-us, gives us this strength, his Heart gives us courage in adversity. So many uncertainties frighten us: in this time of the pandemic we have found ourselves to be smaller, more fragile. In spite of so many marvellous advances, this is also evident in the medical field: so many rare and unknown diseases! When I find people in the audiences – especially children – and I ask: “Are you ill?” – [they answer] “A rare disease”. There are so many of them today! How hard it is to keep up with pathologies, with treatment facilities, with healthcare that is really what it should be, for everyone. We could become discouraged. That is why we need consolation – the third word. The Heart of Jesus beats for us, always repeating those words: “Courage, courage, do not be afraid, I am here!”. Courage, sister, courage, brother, do not lose heart, the Lord your God is greater than your ills, He takes you by the hand and caresses you, He is close to you, He is compassionate, He is tender. He is your comfort.

If we look at reality from the greatness of his Heart, the perspective changes, our knowledge of life changes because, as Saint Paul reminded us, we know “the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge” (Eph 3:19). Let us encourage ourselves with this certainty, with God’s comfort. And let us ask the Sacred Heart for the grace to be able to console in turn. It is a grace that must be asked for, as we courageously commit ourselves to opening up, helping one another, carrying one another’s burdens. It also applies to the future of health care, especially “Catholic” health care: sharing, supporting each other, moving forward together.

May Jesus open the hearts of those who care for the sick to collaboration and cohesion. To your Heart, Lord, we entrust our vocation to care: let us make every person who approaches us in need feel they are dear to us. Amen.


Nabijheid, compassie en liefde

Address for the opening of the Synod

Pope Francis
9 October 2021

Dear brothers and sisters,

Thank you for being here for the opening of the Synod. You have come by many different roads and from different Churches, each bearing your own questions and hopes. I am certain the Spirit will guide us and give us the grace to move forward together, to listen to one another and to embark on a discernment of the times in which we are living, in solidarity with the struggles and aspirations of all humanity. I want to say again that the Synod is not a parliament or an opinion poll; the Synod is an ecclesial event and its protagonist is the Holy Spirit. If the Spirit is not present, there will be no Synod.

May we experience this Synod in the spirit of Jesus’ fervent prayer to the Father on behalf of his disciples: “that they may all be one” (Jn 17:21). This is what we are called to: unity, communion, the fraternity born of the realization that all of us are embraced by the one love of God. All of us, without distinction, and in particular those of us who are bishops. As Saint Cyprian wrote: “We must maintain and firmly uphold this unity, above all ourselves, the bishops who preside in the Church, in order to demonstrate that the episcopate is itself one and undivided” (De Ecclesiae Catholicae Unitate, 5). In the one People of God, therefore, let us journey together, in order to experience a Church that receives and lives this gift of unity, and is open to the voice of the Spirit.

The Synod has three key words: communion, participation and mission. Communion and mission are theological terms describing the mystery of the Church, which we do well to keep in mind. The Second Vatican Council clearly taught that communion expresses the very nature of the Church, while pointing out that the Church has received “the mission of proclaiming and establishing among all peoples the kingdom of Christ and of God, and is, on earth, the seed and beginning of that kingdom” (Lumen Gentium, 5). With those two words, the Church contemplates and imitates the life of the Blessed Trinity, a mystery of communion ad intra and the source of mission ad extra. In the wake of the doctrinal, theological and pastoral reflections that were part of the reception of Vatican II, Saint Paul VI sought to distil in those two words – communion and mission – “the main lines enunciated by the Council”. Commemorating the opening of the Council, he stated that its main lines were in fact “communion, that is, cohesion and interior fullness, in grace, truth and collaboration… and mission, that is, apostolic commitment to the world of today” (Angelus of 11 October 1970), which is not the same as proselytism.

In 1985, at the conclusion of the Synod marking the twentieth anniversary of the close of the Council, Saint John Paul II also reiterated that the Church’s nature is koinonia, which gives rise to her mission of serving as a sign of the human family’s intimate union with God. He went on to say: “It is most useful that the Church celebrate ordinary, and on occasion, also extraordinary synods”. These, if they are to be fruitful, must be well prepared: “it is necessary that the local Churches work at their preparation with the participation of all” (Address at the Conclusion of the II Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, 7 December 1985). And this brings us to our third word: participation. The words “communion” and “mission” can risk remaining somewhat abstract, unless we cultivate an ecclesial praxis that expresses the concreteness of synodality at every step of our journey and activity, encouraging real involvement on the part of each and all. I would say that celebrating a Synod is always a good and important thing, but it proves truly beneficial if it becomes a living expression of “being Church”, of a way of acting marked by true participation.

This is not a matter of form, but of faith. Participation is a requirement of the faith received in baptism. As the Apostle Paul says, “in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body” (1 Cor 12:13). In the Church, everything starts with baptism. Baptism, the source of our life, gives rise to the equal dignity of the children of God, albeit in the diversity of ministries and charisms. Consequently, all the baptized are called to take part in the Church’s life and mission. Without real participation by the People of God, talk about communion risks remaining a devout wish. In this regard, we have taken some steps forward, but a certain difficulty remains and we must acknowledge the frustration and impatience felt by many pastoral workers, members of diocesan and parish consultative bodies and women, who frequently remain on the fringes. Enabling everyone to participate is an essential ecclesial duty! All the baptized, for baptism is our identity card.

The Synod, while offering a great opportunity for a pastoral conversion in terms of mission and ecumenism, is not exempt from certain risks. I will mention three of these. The first is formalism. The Synod could be reduced to an extraordinary event, but only externally; that would be like admiring the magnificent facade of a church without ever actually stepping inside. The Synod, on the other hand, is a process of authentic spiritual discernment that we undertake, not to project a good image of ourselves, but to cooperate more effectively with the work of God in history. If we want to speak of a synodal Church, we cannot remain satisfied with appearances alone; we need content, means and structures that can facilitate dialogue and interaction within the People of God, especially between priests and laity. Why do I insist on this? Because sometimes there can be a certain elitism in the presbyteral order that detaches it from the laity; the priest ultimately becomes more a “landlord” than a pastor of a whole community as it moves forward. This will require changing certain overly vertical, distorted and partial visions of the Church, the priestly ministry, the role of the laity, ecclesial responsibilities, roles of governance and so forth.

A second risk is intellectualism. Reality turns into abstraction and we, with our reflections, end up going in the opposite direction. This would turn the Synod into a kind of study group, offering learned but abstract approaches to the problems of the Church and the evils in our world. The usual people saying the usual things, without great depth or spiritual insight, and ending up along familiar and unfruitful ideological and partisan divides, far removed from the reality of the holy People of God and the concrete life of communities around the world.

Finally, the temptation of complacency, the attitude that says: “We have always done it this way” (Evangelii Gaudium, 33) and it is better not to change. That expression – “We have always done it that way” – is poison for the life of the Church. Those who think this way, perhaps without even realizing it, make the mistake of not taking seriously the times in which we are living. The danger, in the end, is to apply old solutions to new problems. A patch of rough cloth that ends up creating a worse tear (cf. Mt 9:16). It is important that the synodal process be exactly this: a process of becoming, a process that involves the local Churches, in different phases and from the bottom up, in an exciting and engaging effort that can forge a style of communion and participation directed to mission.

And so, brothers and sisters, let us experience this moment of encounter, listening and reflection as a season of grace that, in the joy of the Gospel, allows us to recognize at least three opportunities. First, that of moving not occasionally but structurally towards a synodal Church, an open square where all can feel at home and participate. The Synod then offers us the opportunity to become a listening Church, to break out of our routine and pause from our pastoral concerns in order to stop and listen. To listen to the Spirit in adoration and prayer. Today how much we miss the prayer of adoration; so many people have lost not only the habit but also the very notion of what it means to worship God! To listen to our brothers and sisters speak of their hopes and of the crises of faith present in different parts of the world, of the need for a renewed pastoral life and of the signals we are receiving from those on the ground. Finally, it offers us the opportunity to become a Church of closeness. Let us keep going back to God’s own “style”, which is closeness, compassion and tender love. God has always operated that way. If we do not become this Church of closeness with attitudes of compassion and tender love, we will not be the Lord’s Church. Not only with words, but by a presence that can weave greater bonds of friendship with society and the world. A Church that does not stand aloof from life, but immerses herself in today’s problems and needs, bandaging wounds and healing broken hearts with the balm of God. Let us not forget God’s style, which must help us: closeness, compassion and tender love.

Dear brothers and sisters, may this Synod be a true season of the Spirit! For we need the Spirit, the ever new breath of God, who sets us free from every form of self-absorption, revives what is moribund, loosens shackles and spreads joy. The Holy Spirit guides us where God wants us to be, not to where our own ideas and personal tastes would lead us. Father Congar, of blessed memory, once said: “There is no need to create another Church, but to create a different Church” (True and False Reform in the Church). That is the challenge. For a “different Church”, a Church open to the newness that God wants to suggest, let us with greater fervour and frequency invoke the Holy Spirit and humbly listen to him, journeying together as he, the source of communion and mission, desires: with docility and courage.

Come, Holy Spirit! You inspire new tongues and place words of life on our lips: keep us from becoming a “museum Church”, beautiful but mute, with much past and little future. Come among us, so that in this synodal experience we will not lose our enthusiasm, dilute the power of prophecy, or descend into useless and unproductive discussions. Come, Spirit of love, open our hearts to hear your voice! Come, Holy Spirit of holiness, renew the holy and faithful People of God! Come, Creator Spirit, renew the face of the earth! Amen.


Waardigheid van de zieke gaat boven ziekte en winst

Address to members of the Biomedical University Foundation of the Campus Biomedico University of Rome

Pope Francis
18 October 2021

Dear brothers and sisters,

I welcome you and I thank you for your presence and your gift. I am grateful to Professor Paolo Arullani, President of the Foundation, for the words he addressed to me on your behalf. It is good to meet you in person precisely on the day on which we celebrate Saint Luke, whom the apostle Paul calls “the beloved physician” (Col 4: 14).

I gladly accepted the proposal to meet because of what I know of the Campus Bio-Medico in Rome. I know how difficult it is today to work in the field of healthcare, especially when, as in your hospital, the focus is not only on assistance, but also on research to provide patients with the most suitable therapies, and above all it is done with love for the person. Putting the sick person before the disease is essential in every field of medicine; it is fundamental for treatment that is truly comprehensive, truly human. The patient comes before the illness. Blessed Alvaro del Portillo encouraged you to do this: to place yourselves every day at the service of the human person in his or her entirety. I thank you for this, it is very pleasing to God.

The centrality of the person, which is at the foundation of your commitment to assistance, but also in teaching and research, helps you to strengthen a united and synergic outlook. An outlook that puts in first place not ideas, techniques and projects, but the real person, the patient, to be cared for by encountering his or her history and lived experience, establishing friendly relations, which heal the heart. Love for man, especially in his condition of fragility, in which the image of Jesus Crucified shines through, is specific to a Christian reality and must never be lost.

The Foundation and the Campus Bio-Medico, and Catholic healthcare in general, are called to bear witness to the facts that there are no lives that are unworthy or to be rejected because they do not respond to the criterion of usefulness or the demands of profit. We are living in a real throwaway culture: this is something in the air that we breath and we must react against this throwaway culture. Every healthcare structure, in particular those of Christian inspiration, should be the place where the care of the person is practiced, and where one may say: “Here we do not see only doctors and patients, but people whom we receive and help; here you encounter first-hand the therapy of human dignity. And this should never be negotiated, it should always be defended.

The focus should therefore be on caring for the individual, without forgetting the importance of science and research. Because treatment without science is vain, just as science without treatment is barren. The two things go together, and only together do they make medicine an art, an art that involves head and heart, that combines knowledge and compassion, professionalism and pity, competence and empathy.

Dear friends, thank you for promoting the humane development of research. Unfortunately, we often pursue the profitable paths of profit, forgetting that the needs of the sick come before the opportunities for profit. The needs of the sick are constantly evolving and we must therefore be prepared to deal with new diseases and problems. I have in mind, among others, those of many elderly people and those linked to the many rare diseases, which we know little about, since there has not yet been research to understand them well… In addition to promoting research, you help those who do not have the financial means to pay for university and you face significant costs that the ordinary budget cannot bear. I am thinking in particular of the efforts already made for the Covid Centre, the emergency room and the recent hospice project.

All this is very good, it is good to cope with greater urgencies with greater openings. And it is important to do this together. I stress this simple yet difficult word: together. The pandemic has shown us the importance of connecting, of collaborating, of tackling common problems together. Health care, particularly Catholic health care, has and will increasingly need this, to be in a network, which is a way of expressing togetherness. It is no longer time to follow one’s own charism in isolation. Charity demands giving: knowledge must be shared, expertise must be shared, science must be pooled.

Science, I say, not just the products of science which, if offered on their own, remain band-aids that can dress the wound but not cure it in depth. This applies to vaccines, for example: there is an urgent need to help countries that have fewer of them, but this must be done with far-sighted plans, not just motivated by the haste of wealthy nations to be safer. Remedies must be distributed with dignity, not as pitiful handouts. To truly do good, we need to promote science and its integral application: understanding the contexts, rooting out treatments, nurturing the healthcare culture. It is not easy, it is a real mission, and I hope that Catholic health care will be increasingly active in this sense, as an expression of an outgoing Church.

I encourage you to continue in this direction, welcoming your work as a service to the inspirations and surprises of the Spirit, who along the way makes you encounter so many situations in need of closeness and compassion. I pray for you, I reiterate my gratitude to you, and I give you the Blessing. And I ask you, please, to continue to pray for me. Thank you.


Don’t let the ‘culture of waste’ affect you

Address to the participants in the congress promoted by the Italian Society of Hospital Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Services of Health Authorities

Pope Francis
14 October 2021

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning and welcome!

I would like to thank the President of the Italian Society of Hospital Pharmacy and the Pharmaceutical Services of Health Authorities for his words on behalf of you all. Thank you! You have come from all over Italy for your Conference, representing different realities. The Conference is first and foremost an opportunity for you to exchange views, but it is also an opportunity to reaffirm the importance of the national public health system, an essential element in guaranteeing the common good and the social growth of a country. And all this in the context of the pandemic, which has changed and will change the way we plan, organise and manage health and healthcare. In this regard, I would like to point out three paths on which to continue your efforts.

The first is taken from the figure of the innkeeper in the parable of the Good Samaritan: he is asked to take in the wounded man and care for him until the Samaritan returns (cf. Lk 10:35). In this character we can see two significant aspects of the work of the hospital pharmacist: daily routine and hidden service. These are aspects common to many other jobs, which require patience, constancy and precision, and which do not have the gratification of appearances, which have little visibility. Daily routine and hidden service have little visibility, shall we say: little visibility. Precisely for this reason, if they are accompanied by prayer and love, they generate “everyday holiness”. Because without prayer and without love – as you well know – this routine becomes arid. But with love, done with love and prayer, it leads to the holiness “next door”: anonymous saints who are everywhere because they do what they have to do well.

The second way concerns the specific dimension of the hospital pharmacist, namely his or he professional role, or post-graduate specialisation. Together with the clinician, it is the hospital pharmacist who researches, experiments, proposes new routes; always in immediate contact with the patient. This involves the ability to understand the disease and the patient, to personalise medicines and dosages, sometimes dealing with the most complex clinical situations. In fact, the pharmacist is able to take into account the overall effects, which are more than just the sum of the individual drugs for different diseases. Sometimes – depending on the structure – there is an encounter with the sick person, other times the hospital pharmacy is one of the invisible departments that makes it all work, but the person is always the recipient of your care.

The third way concerns the ethical dimension of the profession, in two respects: personal and social.

On an individual level, the pharmacist, each one of you, uses medicinal substances which can become poisons. Here it is a question of exercising constant vigilance, so that the goal is always the patient’s life in its entirety. You are always at the service of human life. In some cases this can lead to conscientious objection, which is not disloyalty, but on the contrary fidelity to your profession, if validly motivated. Today there is something of a tendency to think that perhaps it would be a good way to approach conscientious objection. But this is the ethical intimacy of every health professional and this should never be negotiated, it is the ultimate responsibility of health professionals. It is also a denunciation of the injustices done to the detriment of innocent and defenceless life. It is a very delicate issue, which requires both great competence and great rectitude. In particular, I have had occasion to return to the subject of abortion recently. You know that I am very clear about this: it is a homicide and it is not licit to become an accomplice. Having said that, our duty is to be close to people, our positive duty: to be close to situations, especially women, so that they do not come to think of the abortion solution, because in reality it is not the solution. Then after ten, twenty, thirty years, life sends you the bill. And you have to be in a confessional to understand the price of this, which is so hard.

This was the personal ethical level. Then there is the level of social justice, which is so important: “Health strategies, aimed at the pursuit of justice and the common good, must be economically and ethically sustainable”. Certainly, in the Italian National Health Service, great space is occupied by the universality of access to care, but the pharmacist – even in the hierarchies of management and administration – is not a mere executor. Therefore, management and financial criteria are not the only element to be taken into consideration. The throwaway culture must not affect your profession. And this is another area in which we must always be vigilant. “God our Father gave us the task of protecting the earth – not for money, but for ourselves: for men and women. We have this task! Nevertheless, men and women are sacrificed to the idols of profit and consumption: it is the ‘culture of waste’”. Even in the elderly: give half the medicines and your life is shortened… It is rejection, yes. This observation, which originally referred to the environment, applies even more so to human health.

The management of resources and care not to waste what is entrusted to the hands of each individual pharmacist take on not only an economic meaning, but also an ethical, I would say human, one: very human. Think of attention to details, to the purchase and conservation of products, to the correct use and application in those who are in urgent need. Think about the relationship with the various workers – the ward managers, nurses, doctors and anaesthetists – and with all the structures involved. I thank you for this visit, and I hope that you will be able to continue in your work, which is so human, so worthy, so great and so often so silent that no one notices. Thank you very much! May God bless you all. And pray for me. Thank you!


Wereldwijde gezondheidszorg: géén wegwerpcultuur

Address to the participants in the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

Pope Francis
27 September 2021

Dear sisters and brothers,

I am happy to be able to meet you on the occasion of your General Assembly and I thank Msgr Paglia for his words. I extend a greeting also to the many Academics who are connected.

The theme you have chosen for these three days of workshops is particularly timely: that of public health in the horizon of globalization. Indeed, the crisis of the pandemic has made “both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor” reverberate even more strongly (Enc. Laudato Si’, 49). We cannot remain deaf before this dual cry. We have to listen to it well! And it is what you are setting out to do.

Examination of the numerous and grave issues that have emerged in the last two years is not an easy task. On the one hand we are worn out by the Covid-19 pandemic and by the inflation of issues that have been raised: we almost do not want to hear about it any more and we hurry on to other topics. However, on the other hand, it is essential to reflect calmly in order to examine in depth what has happened and to glimpse the path towards a better future for all. Truly, “even worse than this crisis is the tragedy of squandering it” (Pentecost homily, 31 May 2020). And we know that we do not emerge from a crisis the same: we will either emerge better or we will emerge worse. But not the same. The choice is in our hands. And I repeat, even worse than this crisis is the tragedy of squandering it. I encourage you in this effort. And I think the dynamic of discernment in which your meeting is taking place is wise and timely: first and foremost, listening attentively to the situation in order to foster a true and proper conversion and identify concrete decisions to emerge from the crisis, better.

The reflection that you have undertaken in recent years on global bioethics is revealing itself to be precious. I had encouraged you in this perspective with the letter Humana communitas on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of your Academy. The horizon of public health in fact offers the possibility to focus on important aspects for the coexistence of the human family and to strengthen the fabric of social friendship. These are central themes in the Encyclical Fratelli Tutti (cf. Chapter 6).

The crisis of the pandemic has highlighted the depth of the interdependence both among ourselves and between the human family and our common home (cf. Laudato Si’, 86; 164). Our societies, especially in the West, have had the tendency to forget this interconnection. And the bitter consequences are before our eyes. In this epochal change it is thus urgent to invert this noxious tendency and it is possible to do so through the synergy among different disciplines. Knowledge of biology and hygiene is needed, as well as of medicine and epidemiology, but also of economy and sociology, anthropology and ecology. In addition to understanding the phenomena, it is a matter of identifying technological, political and ethical criteria of action with regards to health systems, the family, employment and the environment.

This outlook is particularly important in the health field because health and sickness are determined not only by processes of nature but also by social life. Moreover, it is not enough for a problem to be serious for it to come to people’s attention and thus be addressed. Many very serious problems are ignored due to lack of an adequate commitment. Let us think of the devastating impact of certain diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis: the precariousness of health and hygiene conditions cause millions of avoidable deaths in the world every year. If we compare this reality with the concern caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, we can see how the perception of the seriousness of the problem and the corresponding mobilization of energies and resources are very different.

Of course, taking all measures to stem and defeat Covid-19 on a global level is the right thing to do, but this moment in history in which our health is being threatened directly should make us aware of what it means to be vulnerable and to live daily in insecurity. We could thus assume the responsibility also for the grave conditions in which others live and of which we have so far been little or not interested at all. We could thus learn not to project our priorities onto populations who live on other continents, where other needs are more urgent; where, for example, not only vaccines but also drinking water and daily bread are in short supply. I don’t know if one should laugh or cry, cry sometimes, when we hear government leaders or community leaders advise slum dwellers to sanitize themselves several times a day with soap and water. But, my dear, you have never been to a slum: there is no water there, they know nothing about soap. “No, do not leave your home!”: but there the whole neighbourhood is home, because they live… Please, let us take care of this reality, even when we reflect on health. Let us welcome then, any commitment to a fair and universal distribution of vaccines — this is important —, but taking into account the broader field which demands the same criteria of justice for health needs and for the promotion of life.

Looking at health in its multiple dimensions at a global level helps to understand and take on with responsibility the interconnection between the phenomena. In this way, we can better observe how even the conditions of life that are the result of political, social and environmental choices have an impact on the health of human beings. If we examine in different countries and in different social groups the hope of life — and of a healthy life — we discover great inequalities. They depend on variables such as the amount of wages, the educational level, the neighbourhood in which one resides even though it is in the same city. We state that life and health are values that are equally fundamental for all, based on the inalienable dignity of the human person. But, if this statement is not followed by an adequate commitment to overcome inequality, we are de facto accepting the painful reality that not all lives are equal and health is not protected for everyone in the same way. And here, I would like to repeat my concern: that there always be a free healthcare system. May the countries which have them, not lose them, for example Italy and others, which have a good free healthcare system: do not lose it because otherwise we would end up with only members of the population who can afford it, having the right to healthcare and the others not. And this is a very big challenge. This helps overcome inequality.

Therefore, international initiatives are to be supported — I am thinking for example of those recently promoted by the G20 aimed at creating a global governance for the health of all the inhabitants of the planet, that is, a set of clear rules agreed at the international level that respect human dignity. In fact, the risk of new pandemics will continue to be a threat also for the future.

The Pontifical Academy for Life can also offer a precious contribution in this sense, seeing itself as a travelling companion of other international organizations committed to this same aim. With regards to this, it is important to participate in shared initiatives and in the appropriate manner, to the public debate. Naturally, this requires that, without “watering down” contents, attempts be made to communicate them in a language that is suitable and topics that can be understood in the current social context, so that the Christian anthropological proposition, inspired by Revelation, can also help today’s men and women to rediscover “the primacy of the right to life from conception to its natural end” (Discourse to participants in the Meeting sponsored by the Science and Life Association, 30 May 2015).

Here too, I would like to mention that we are victims of the throwaway culture. In his presentation, Msgr Paglia referred to something: but there is the throwing away of children that we do not want to welcome, with that abortion law that sends them back to their sender and kills them. Today this has become a “normal” thing, a habit that is very bad; it is truly murder. In order to truly grasp this, perhaps asking ourselves two questions may help: is it right to eliminate, to end a human life to solve a problem? Is it right to hire a hitman to solve a problem? Abortion is this. And then on the other side, are the elderly: the elderly who are also a bit of “throwaway material” because they are not needed…. But they are the wisdom, they are the roots of the wisdom of our civilization, and this civilization discards them! Yes, in many places there is a “hidden” law on euthanasia, as I call it. It is the one that makes us say: “medicines are expensive, only half should be given”. This means shortening the lives of the elderly. In so doing, we deny hope, the hope of the children who bring us the life that makes us go forward, and the hope that is in the roots that the elderly give us. Instead, we discard both. And then the everyday throwing away, that life is thrown away. Let us be careful about this throwaway culture. It is not a problem of one law or another. It is a problem of throwing away. And on this point, you academics, the Catholic universities and also Catholic hospitals cannot allow themselves to go this way. This is a path which we cannot take: the throw away path.

Therefore, the work that your Academy has undertaken in recent years on the impact of new technologies on human life and more specifically on “algorethics” should be looked upon favourably in such a way “that science may truly be at the service of mankind, and not mankind at the service of science” (ibid ). I encourage in this regard, the work of the fledgling foundation, renAIssance, for the spreading and deepening of the Rome Call for AI Ethics which I strongly hope many will join.

Lastly, I wish to thank you for the commitment and contribution that the Academy has provided by actively participating in the Vatican Covid Commission. Thank you for this. It is beautiful to see cooperation within the Roman Curia in the fulfilment of a shared project. We have to increasingly develop these processes brought forth together, in which I know many of you have participated, urging greater attention to vulnerable people such as the elderly, the disabled and the younger ones.

With these feelings of gratitude, I entrust the work of this Assembly and also your activity as an Academy on the whole in favour of the defence and promotion of life, to the Virgin Mary. I offer my heartfelt blessing to each of you and your loved ones. And I ask you please to pray for me because I need it. Thank you.


Gezondheidszorg toegankelijk voor iedereen

11 juli 2021
Pope Francis

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Buongiorno!

I am glad to be able to keep the Sunday Angelus appointment, even here from “Gemelli” Polyclinic. I thank you all: I have felt your closeness and the support of your prayers. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

The Gospel passage we read today in the Liturgy recounts that Jesus’ disciples, sent by him, “anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them” (Mk 6:13). This “oil” also makes us think of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, which gives comfort to spirit and body. But this “oil” is also listening, the closeness, the care, the tenderness of those who take care of the sick person: it is like a caress that makes you feel better, soothes your pain and cheers you up. All of us, all, need this “anointing” of closeness and tenderness sooner or later, and we can all give it to someone else, with a visit, a phone call, a hand outstretched to someone who needs help. Let us remember that, in the protocol of the final judgment — Matthew 25 — one of the things they will ask us will be about closeness to the sick.

In these days of hospitalization, I experienced once again how important is good healthcare that is accessible to all, as there is in Italy and in other countries. Free healthcare, that assures good service, accessible to everyone. This precious benefit must not be lost. It needs to be kept! And for this everyone needs to be committed, because it helps everyone and requires everyone’s contribution. In the Church too it happens that at times some healthcare institution, due to poor management, does not do well economically, and the first thought that comes to mind is to sell it. But vocation in the Church, is not to have money; it is to offer service, and service is always freely given. Do not forget this: saving free institutions.

I would like to express my appreciation and my encouragement to the doctors and all the healthcare workers and staff of this and of other hospitals. They work so hard! And let us pray for all the sick. Here there are some friends, sick children…. Why do children suffer? Why children suffer is a question that touches the heart. Accompany them with prayer and pray for all those who are sick, especially for those in the most difficult conditions: may no one be left alone, may everyone receive the anointing of listening, closeness, tenderness and care. Let us ask this through the intercession of Mary, our Mother, Health of the Sick.

After the Angelus the Holy Father continued:

Dear brothers and sisters, in recent days my prayer has often been aimed at Haiti, following the assassination of its President and the wounding of his wife. I join in the heartfelt appeal of the country’s Bishops to “lay down weapons, choose life, choose to live together fraternally in the interest of all and in the interest of Haiti”. I am close to the beloved Haitian people; I hope that the spiral of violence will cease and the nation can resume the journey toward a future of peace and harmony.

Today is “Sea Sunday”, dedicated in a particular way to seafarers and to those whose source of work and sustenance is the sea. I pray for them and exhort everyone to take care of the oceans and seas. Take care of the health of the seas: no plastic in the sea!

I remember and bless those who are participating in Radio Maria Family’s pilgrimage to the Shrine of Częstochowa, today in Poland.

Today we celebrate the Feast of Saint Benedict, Abbot and Patron of Europe. An embrace to our protector Saint! Let us offer our good wishes to the men and women Benedictines throughout the world. And best wishes to Europe, that it be united in its founding values.

And happy Sunday to everyone! Do not forget to pray for me. Enjoy your lunch! Arrivederci!