Vatican Aide: Death a Reality, Despite Technology

Affirms That Palliative Care Headed in Good Direction

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 3, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Even in societies marked by great scientific and technological progress, Christians still face the challenge of death and dying well, says Father Federico Lombardi.

The director of the Vatican press office affirmed this on Vatican Television's latest edition of "Octava Dies." The spokesman was commenting on Benedict XVI's Feb. 25 address to the participants in the Pontifical Academy for Life conference on the theme "Close By the Incurable Sick Person and the Dying: Scientific and Ethical Aspects."

Father Lombardi noted how the Pope asked for "the sincere participation of the Church and society in this ancient but always relevant problem."

"The passage of death, toward which we are all drawing near, is an important moment in our life," he said. "It has a meaning such that every human person should prepare for it and be accompanied in it. Or is this not so?"

Father Lombardi noted, "It is not said that the greater capacity of modern medical science should be employed to help life that is slipping away, inasmuch as this can seem unimportant, above all when it is a matter of people who are poor and alone, people who, from a utilitarian perspective, may appear only to be a burden."

Yet Benedict XVI recalled Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who wanted the poorest of the poor to experience "in the embrace of brothers and sisters the warmth of the Father" who welcomes them.

Nevertheless, Father Lombardi affirmed that the "commitment of palliative medicine to alleviate the suffering of the incurably ill is going in the right direction." And he recalled the Pope's emphasis on the rights of families to assist the terminally ill.

He said: "There is a whole culture of solidarity that must be developed, because," as the Pontiff concluded, "it is a cruel and inhuman society that is unable to accept those who are suffering and is incapable of contributing through compassion so that this suffering can be shared and even born interiorly."

"In this perspective, the Church re-emphasizes its opposition to every form of direct euthanasia," Father Lombardi affirmed. "This is because [the Church] cannot renounce believing in love and hope, in the meaning of suffering and in the transcendent destiny that we all have."