This week marks the gathering of the World Health Organization (WHO) for the purpose of appointing a new Director General following the unexpected death of Dr. J.W. Lee. Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See’s delegate to WHO, delivered a vision of women’s health, gender identity, and aid to Africa, that if followed, would mean a significant change of course for the new Director General, Dr. Margaret Chan.
Dr. Chan outlined her goals for her tenure as, “the health of women and of the people of Africa.” Archbishop Tomasi expressed his satisfaction with these objectives, and then went on to explain the Church’s experience in those areas.
“The Catholic Church has traditionally been in the first line in the promotion of the authentic health of women, by helping them to harmonize their physical, psychological and social well-being with moral and spiritual values.”
One facet of this holistic vision of the human person that Tomasi focused on is gender identity. “[T]he Holy See wishes to invite the WHO member states once again to understand the term "gender" as grounded in biological sexual identity, male or female.”
Another area of the gender debate that the prelate spoke on, was the safeguarding of marriage and the family. “The Catholic Church is also convinced of the God-given, equal, and complementary dignity of women and men. The Catholic Church also prioritizes the most fruitful expression of complementarity between woman and man – that is, the family which is founded upon lifelong and mutually faithful marriage and which continues to serve as the mainstay of human society.”
In light of Dr. Chan’s attention to the health of the people of Africa, the Archbishop offered the experience of the Church. “[M]any nations are still in the grip of famine, war, racial and tribal tensions, political instability and the violation of human rights.” Pope Benedict XVI’s exhortation to the international community is also very appropriate, "we must not forget Africa …."
Tomasi’s closing remarks left the assembly with a vision of health that seeks a deeper level of care for all aspects of the person. “[M]y delegation urges a perspective on health security that is grounded on an anthropology respectful of the human person in his or her integrity and looks far beyond the absence of disease to the full harmony and sound balance of the physical, emotional, spiritual and social forces within the human person.”