Pope Francis hails Argentina’s doctors and nurses as ‘unsung heroes’ of pandemic

Screenshot 2020 11 24 at 121832 Pope Francis records a video message marking Argentina’s Nursing Day and Doctors’ Day. Screenshot from the Argentine bishops’ conference YouTube account.

Pope Francis hailed Argentina's healthcare workers as the "unsung heroes" of the coronavirus pandemic in a video message released Friday. 

In the video, posted on the YouTube account of the Argentine bishops' conference Nov. 20, the pope expressed his appreciation of doctors and nurses in his homeland. 

He said: "You are the unsung heroes of this pandemic. How many of you have given your lives to be close to the sick! Thanks for the closeness, thanks for the tenderness, thanks for the professionalism with which you take care of the sick."

The pope recorded the message ahead of Argentina's Nursing Day on Nov. 21 and Doctors' Day on Dec. 3. His words were introduced by Bishop Alberto Bochatey, auxiliary bishop of La Plata and president of the Argentine bishops' health commission, who described them as "a surprise."

Argentina, which has a population of 44 million, has recorded more than 1,374,000 cases of COVID-19 and over 37,000 deaths as of Nov. 24, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, despite undergoing the world's longest lockdown.

The pope prayed frequently for healthcare workers when he celebrated livestreamed daily Masses during this year's lockdown in Italy. 

In May, he said that the coronavirus crisis had shown that governments needed to invest more in healthcare and employ more nurses.

In a message marking International Nurses Day on May 12, he said that the pandemic had exposed the weaknesses of the world's healthcare systems.

"For this reason, I would ask leaders of nations throughout the world to invest in health care as the primary common good, by strengthening its systems and employing greater numbers of nurses, so as to ensure adequate care to everyone, with respect for the dignity of each person," he wrote. 

In his message to Argentine medical workers, the pope said: "I want to be close to all doctors and nurses, especially at this time when the pandemic calls us to be close to the men and women who suffer."

"I pray for you, I ask the Lord to bless each of you, your families, with all my heart, and to accompany you in your work and in the problems you may encounter. May the Lord be close to you as you are close to the sick. And don't forget to pray for me."

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