Pope's Message to Health Care Conference
"The Bond Between Justice and Charity ... Is Very Close"
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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 18, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the message that Benedict XVI sent to the 25th international conference of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry, which began today in Rome. The congress is considering the theme: "Caritas in Veritate -- For Equitable and Human Health Care." Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Pope's secretary of state, delivered the address on behalf of the Pontiff.
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To the Venerable Brother
Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski
President of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry
With joy I wish to add my cordial greeting to the participants in the 25th International Conference, which is rightly inserted in the celebratory year of the 25th anniversary of the institution of the dicastery, and offers a further reason to thank God for this precious instrument for the apostolate of mercy. A grateful thought to all those who do their utmost, in the different sectors of health pastoral care to live the diakonia of charity, which is central in the mission of the Church. In this connection, I am pleased to remember Cardinal Fiorenzo Angelini and Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán, who over these 25 years led the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry, and to address a particular greeting to the current president of the dicastery, Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, as well as to the secretary, the undersecretary, the officials, the collaborators, the speakers of the Congress, and all those present.
The topic chosen by you this year "Caritas in Veritate -- For Equitable and Human Health Care," is of particular interest for the Christian community, in which the care of the human being is central, because of his transcendent dignity and inalienable rights. Health is a precious good for the person and society to promote, conserve and protect, dedicating the means, resources and energies necessary so that more persons can enjoy it. Unfortunately, the problem still remains today of many populations of the world that do not have access to the necessary resources to satisfy fundamental needs, particularly in regard to health. It is necessary to work with greater commitment at all levels so that the right to health is rendered effective, favoring access to primary health care. In our time we witness on one hand a care of health that risks being transformed into pharmacological consumerism, medical and surgical, becoming almost a cult of the body, and on the other, the difficulty of millions of persons to accede to conditions of minimal subsistence and indispensable medicines to be cured.
Important also in the field of health, integral part of each one's existence and of the common good, is to establish a true distributive justice that guarantees to all, on the basis of objective needs, adequate care. Consequently, the world of health cannot be subtracted from the moral rules that should govern it so that it will not become inhuman. As I stressed in the encyclical "Caritas in Veritate," the social doctrine of the Church has always evidenced the importance of distributive justice and of social justice in the different sectors of human relations (No. 35). Justice is promoted when one receives the life of the other and one assumes responsibility for him, responding to his expectations, because in him one grasps the face itself of the Son of God, who for us was made man. The divine image impressed in our brother is the foundation of the lofty dignity of every person and arouses in each one the need of respect, of care and of service. The bond between justice and charity, in the Christian perspective, is very close: "Charity exceeds justice, because to love is to give, to offer of my 'own' to the other; but it is never without justice, which induces to give the other what is 'his,' that which is due to him by reason of his being and his acting. [...] He who loves others with charity is first of all just to them. Not only is justice not foreign to charity, not only is it not an alternative or parallel way to charity: Justice is 'inseparable from charity,' intrinsic to it. Justice is the first way of charity" (Ibid., 6). In this connection, with a synthetic and incisive expression, St. Augustine taught that "justice consists in helping the poor" ("De Trinitate," XIV, 9: PL 42, 1045).
To bend down as the Good Samaritan to the wounded man abandoned on the side of the road is to fulfill that "greater justice" that Jesus asks of his disciples and acted in his life, because love is the fulfillment of the Law. The Christian community, following in the footsteps of its Lord, has carried out the mandate to go out into the world "to teach and cure the sick" and over the centuries "has strongly realized the service to the sick and suffering as an integral part of its mission" (John Paul II, motu proprio "Dolentium Hominum," No. 1), of witnessing integral salvation, which is health of soul and body.
The People of God, pilgrimaging on the torturous paths of history joins its efforts to those of so many other men and women of good will to give a truly human face to health systems. Health justice should be among the priorities of governments and international institutions. Unfortunately, next to positive and encouraging results, there are opinions and lines of thought that wound it: I am referring to questions such as those connected with so-called "reproductive health," with recourse to artificial techniques of procreation entailing the destruction of embryos, or with legalized euthanasia. Love of justice, the protection of life from conception to its natural end, respect for the dignity of every human being, are to be upheld and witnessed, even against the current: the fundamental ethical values are the common patrimony of universal morality and the basis of democratic coexistence.
What is necessary is the joint effort of all, but also necessary and above all is a profound conversion of the interior look. Only if one looks at the world with the look of the Creator, which is a look of love, humanity will learn to be on earth in peace and justice, allocating with equity the earth and its resources to the good of every man and every woman. Because of this, "I hope for [...] the adoption of a model of development founded on the centrality of the human being, on the promotion and sharing of the common good, on responsibility, on the awareness of the necessary change of lifestyles and on prudence, virtue that indicates the actions to be carried out today, in expectation of what might happen tomorrow" (Benedict XVI, Message for the 2010 World Day of Peace, 9).
To suffering brothers and sisters I express my closeness and also the appeal to live illness as an occasion of grace to grow spiritually and participate in the sufferings of Christ for the good of the world, and to all of you, committed in the vast field of health, I give my encouragement for your precious service. In praying for the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary, "Salus infirmorum," I impart my heartfelt Apostolic Blessing which I extend also to your families.
From the Vatican, Nov. 15, 2010
BENEDICTUS PP. XVI
[Translation by ZENIT]