In a message, sent today to the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI), currently meeting in Assisi, Italy, Pope Benedict stressed the importance of Catholic health care ministry, saying that it stems from the heart of the Church’s mission.
The CEI meeting, which concludes tomorrow, marks the conference’s 55th general assembly. The bishops have decided to devote special attention, among other issues, to the formation of future priests and to the presence of the Church in the world of health care.
Highlighting the importance of pastoral health care ministry, the Holy Father said that while "illness certainly poses serious and complex problems of social organization,…first and foremost, it constitutes a fundamental dimension of the human experience, one that cries out to the mission of the Church and to the conscience of believers.
“Indeed,” he said, “it was not by chance that the Lord accompanied His announcement of salvation with much healing of suffering people; and the Christian community in all times has made the care of the sick an emblem of Christian charity.”
The Pope recalled "the witness given us by my beloved predecessor John Paul II”, which “remains engraved in our hearts. He made the cathedra of suffering the pinnacle of his Magisterium.”
“Illuminated and encouraged by such a great testimony,” he said, “the Church is called to express solidarity and care towards those facing the trial of sickness."
The Holy Father went on in his message to stress that Catholic institutions which operate in the field of health care ought to be exemplary, “uniting scientific innovation and competence with primary care for the person and for his or her dignity.”
“Faced with the call ... to eliminate suffering,” he added, “even through recourse to euthanasia, the inviolable dignity of human life must again be reaffirmed."
The Pope concluded his message by spiritually uniting himself with the Bishop’s conference and recalling the upcoming 40th anniversary of the end of Vatican Council II.
He praised the celebration, at which will preside on December 8, calling it a chance to “commemorate the extraordinary gift that the Church and humanity received through the Council."