Bishop Michael Router, Auxiliary Bishop of Armagh, chair of the Council for Healthcare of the Irish Bishops’ Conference, welcomed Pope Francis’ message for the World Day of the Sick which takes place tomorrow, February 11, the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.
Bishop Router said that the Pope reminds us that Jesus always addresses a word of hope to those who are hurt or afflicted especially, the sick, the oppressed and the poor and that his words of hope are addressed especially to the sick through this annual day of prayer. In his message, Pope Francis tells us that, “Jesus does not make demands of those who endure situations of frailty, suffering, and weakness, but offers His mercy and His comforting presence … Because He Himself became frail, endured human suffering and received comfort from His Father.”
Bishop Michael stated that the Pope’s message asks us to promote a more holistic approach to those who are sick or suffering. Rather than thinking only about curing we should also reflect on the quality of our caring. Pope Francis urges healthcare professionals, to adopt this approach and to see the person behind the patient. Those who work in the field of medicine are encouraged by the Pope to “strive to promote the dignity and life of each person, and reject any compromise in the direction of euthanasia, assisted suicide or suppression of life, even in the case of terminal illness”. Pope Francis also asks us to remember “that life is sacred and belongs to God; hence it is inviolable and no one can claim the right to dispose of it freely”. This may involve conscientious objection from time to time in order to stay true to one’s yes to life. The healthcare professional who may no longer be able to provide a cure can still provide care and healing and bring comfort and relief.
Bishop Router also highlighted that Pope Francis asks us to remember those who through warfare or poverty have no access to healthcare. The Pope encourages governments and healthcare institutions “to cooperate in ensuring that everyone has access to suitable treatments for preserving and restoring their health”.
The Council for Healthcare strongly encourages everyone to read and reflect on the Pope’s message, particularly when health is so much in the news at present with the serious outbreak of the coronavirus in China and in several other countries. Such events force us to reflect on the fragility of life. The Council encourages everyone to pray for those affected and for the continued efforts to bring the outbreak under control.