On the feast of the patron saint of doctors, Pope Francis said that Catholic healthcare is called to bear witness to human dignity amid a throwaway culture.
“There are no lives that are unworthy or to be discarded because they do not respond to the criterion of utility or to the demands of profit,” Pope Francis said on Oct. 18.
“We are experiencing a true throwaway culture; this is a bit like the air we breathe and we must react against this throwaway culture.”
In an audience with medical professionals on the feast of St. Luke, the patron saint of physicians, the pope said that every healthcare facility, especially those with a Christian foundation, should be a place where it is possible to say: “Here you can experience the healing effects of human dignity.”
Blessed Álvaro del Portillo, the successor of Opus Dei’s founder St. Josemaría Escrivá, helped to establish the medical university in 1993.
“It is nice to meet you in person on the very day we celebrate St. Luke, whom the Apostle Paul calls ‘the beloved physician,’” Pope Francis said.
“Putting the patient before the disease is essential in every field of medicine; it is fundamental for a treatment that is truly comprehensive, truly human,” he said.
“Blessed Álvaro del Portillo encouraged you to do this: to place yourselves every day at the service of the human person in his or her entirety. I thank you for this, it is very pleasing to God.”
Pope Francis praised a vision of medicine in which “the centrality of the person” forms the basis of patient care, teaching, and research.
This vision, he said, “does not put ideas, techniques, and projects in first place, but the actual person, the patient, to be cared for by understanding his or her story and establishing friendly relationships that heal the heart.”
“Love for the person, especially in his or her condition of fragility, in which the image of Jesus Crucified shines through, is specific to a Christian reality and must never be lost,” the pope said.
The Prefecture of the Papal Household announced on Oct. 18 that Pope Francis would celebrate a Mass on Nov. 5 at the Rome campus of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart marking the 60th anniversary of the Faculty of Medicine’s inauguration.
In his address on Monday, Pope Francis said that the pandemic had revealed the importance of connecting and collaborating to solve common problems in medicine.
“Charity requires a gift: knowledge must be shared, competence must be shared, science must be shared,” he said.
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He added that countries with fewer resources should be helped with vaccines, for example, but not only with the motivation of satisfying wealthy nations’ urgency to be safer faster.
“Remedies must be distributed with dignity, not as pitiful handouts,” he said.
“Medicine is an art, an art that involves head and heart, which combines knowledge and compassion, professionalism and piety, competence and empathy,” Pope Francis commented.
Courtney Mares is a Rome Correspondent for Catholic News Agency. A graduate of Harvard University, she has reported from news bureaus on three continents and was awarded the Gardner Fellowship for her work with North Korean refugees.