Pope Encourages Reflection on Mystery of Suffering

Archbishop Zimowski Warns Against Ideologies in Health Sector

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 3, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is encouraging deeper reflection on the mystery of suffering during next week's celebration of the World Day of the Sick, Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski pointed out.

The president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry stated this in a press conference today regarding the 19th World Day of the Sick, which will be observed Feb. 11, on the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.

Archbishop Zimowski reflected on the Pope's message, published Dec. 18 by the Vatican, for the occasion of this day.

The prelate noted that the Pontiff is inviting society to accept suffering, encouraging youth to understand it and the authorities to intervene more in health structures.

The Holy Father proposed again the thought he expressed in the encyclical "Spe Salvi:" "A society unable to accept its suffering members and incapable of helping to share their suffering and to bear it inwardly through compassion is a cruel and inhuman society."

The archbishop underlined Benedict XVI's experience of prayer before the Shroud of Turin, which the Pontiff described in his message, and how "that suffering countenance" invites us "to meditate on him who took upon himself man's suffering of every age and place, even our sufferings, our difficulties, our sins."

The Holy Father mentioned the upcoming World Youth Day in Madrid, and invited young people who are sick to remember that "the cross is God's 'yes' to mankind, the highest and most intense expression of his love and the source from which flows eternal life."

Clear doctrine

The secretary of the pontifical council, Bishop José Luis Redrado, also took part in the press conference, along with the dicastery's undersecretary, Monsignor Jean Marie Mpendawatu, and a consultor, Psychologist Rosa Merola.

Responding to a question about condoms and AIDS, Bishop Redrado noted that the doctrine of the Church is very clear, especially due to the note issued a few weeks ago by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, "and in so far as health agents there is nothing to add," he stated.

For his part, Monsignor Mpendawatu said that after an upcoming congress in May, the council may publish a pastoral "subsidy" for health agents and Christian communities to address the topic of AIDS, a matter in which "the Church is strongly committed."

Archbishop Zimowski responded that as science advances and poses new problems, there is a need for constant updating, as well as in the efforts made in the 171,000 health structures of the Church.

Monsignor Mpendawatu told journalists that the Church has many doctors "committed to research on adult stem cells and with good results," whereas experiments on embryonic stem cells have led to nothing.

Archbishop Zimowski expressed concern over the legislation in many countries that "applies invasive ideologies in the health sector" as well as draft laws under discussion on reproductive health, which would create direct difficulties in families.

"The Church carries out a practical, not philosophical work," added Bishop Redrado. He noted that "in one year in the Fate Bene Fratelli hospital alone, with its 300 structures, assisted 20 million people," not to mention the countries of Africa and the work the Church carries out there.

Rosa Merola, who works directly with prisoners, among whom are many young people, stated how the lack of affection, of role models, influences prisoners negatively.

She also highlighted the importance of the family and education in authentic values to help children grow up and avoid irreparable evils.

Catholic associations

Also presented at the press office was a seminar on "Catholic Health Associations and the Culture of Life," which will be held on Saturday in the St. Pius X auditorium on via della Conciliazione, marking the 25th anniversary of the institution of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry.

Some 70 associations, which in total have 50,000 members, will take part in the seminar. The participating organizations include: the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations (FIAMC), the International Catholic Committee of Nurses and Medico-Social Assistants (CICIAMS) and the International Federation of Catholic Pharmacists (FIPC).

[With the contribution of Sergio Mora]

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On ZENIT's Web page:

Papal message for World Day of the Sick: http://www.zenit.org/article-31286?l=english

Statement by Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: http://www.zenit.org/article-31300?l=english