“Patients are always more important than their diseases, and for this reason, no therapeutic approach can prescind from listening to the patient, his or her history, anxieties and fears,” he wrote.
The pope also emphasized the importance of protecting and preserving Catholic healthcare institutions.
“Their presence has distinguished the history of the Church, showing her closeness to the sick and the poor, and to situations overlooked by others,” he wrote.
Pope Francis created a foundation in October offering financial support to Catholic hospitals in difficulty. The foundation, known in Italian as the Fondazione per la Sanità Cattolica, was established in response to requests for “direct intervention” by the Vatican to help Catholic institutions.
On Dec. 24, it was announced that the new Vatican foundation had joined together with the Leonardo Del Vecchio Foundation to save and relaunch Rome’s historic Fatebenefratelli Hospital, which has been in dire financial straits since 2013.
The nearly bankrupt Catholic hospital on Rome’s Tiber Island is run by the Hospitaller Order of St. John of God.
Catholic healthcare is important both in poor countries, where people lack access to adequate care, and in the most developed countries, Pope Francis said, where, “in addition to caring for the body with all necessary expertise, they can always offer the gift of charity, which focuses on the sick themselves and their families.”
“At a time in which the culture of waste is widespread and life is not always acknowledged as worthy of being welcomed and lived, these structures, like ‘houses of mercy,’ can be exemplary in protecting and caring for all life, even the most fragile, from its beginning until its natural end,” he said.
Francis closed his message by entrusting all of the sick and their families to the intercession of the Virgin Mary, under the title Health of the Infirm.
“United with Christ, who bears the pain of the world, may they find meaning, consolation, and trust. I pray for healthcare workers everywhere, that, rich in mercy, they may offer patients, together with suitable care, their fraternal closeness,” he said.
Hannah Brockhaus is Catholic News Agency's senior Rome correspondent. She grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and has a degree in English from Truman State University in Missouri.