The Holy Father made this comment in a letter sent today to participants in an international congress on "Communication and Relationships in Medicine: New Perspectives for Medical Etiquette."
The letter was sent in the Pope's name by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state. The meeting, which was organized by the Medicine, Dialogue and Communion Association, inspired by the Focolare Movement, is taking place today and Saturday at the Catholic University of Rome.
According to the Holy Father, the subject chosen by the congress "is especially important for contemporary medicine, increasingly subject to manipulation and attempts at manipulation of its specific nature, which is that of knowing how to be of service of the sick person, of his physical and spiritual suffering."
The Pope added that of decisive importance in this mission is the relationship "between the doctor and the patient," which involves "the whole medical team, the health institution, and the home itself, not forgetting the relatives of sick people."
The papal messages states that it would be "an error to identify the whole human person with the capacity for relationship and communication, denying those who lack this capacity the intrinsic and objective value that belongs to the human person as such."
Quoting Pope John Paul II's 1995 encyclical "Evangelium Vitae," Benedict XVI says that there is a "mentality which tends to equate personal dignity with the capacity for verbal and explicit, or at least perceptible, communication."
The message continues: "It is clear that on the basis of these presuppositions there is no place in the world for anyone who, like the unborn or the dying, is a weak element in the social structure, or for anyone who appears completely at the mercy of others and radically dependent on them, and can only communicate through silent language of a profound sharing of affection."
The Pontiff expressed his hope that the congress will open "new perspectives" for this "communicative capacity, which will place the human being above those fictitious values that modern society imposes increasingly: efficiency, productivity and autonomy."
The congress may be followed live on the Web page: http://live.focolare.org.