Drugs, AIDS and Diseases Targeted by Asian Bishops

At World Day of the Sick, in India

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VAILANKANNI, India, FEB. 14, 2002 (Zenit.org).- The World Day of the Sick, celebrated here Monday, enabled the Church in Asia to join forces in the struggle against drug addiction, AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and malnutrition in the continent.

Representatives of the Asian bishops´ conferences attended the meeting and had the chance to discuss these problems with the papal delegate, Archbishop Javier Lozano Barragán, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) Health Commission, during its meeting at the 10th World Day of the Sick, expressed grave concern over the rampant prevalence of the problems.

Bishop Thumma Bala, commission chairman, appealed to the papal delegate to guide the panel in dealing with the appalling health situation in Asia, the Catholic SAR news agency reported.

Archbishop Anthony Soter Fernandez of Kuala Lumpur, president of the bishops´ conference of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, suggested that the Federation of Asian Bishops Conference could play a vital role in uniting the health commissions. “The FABC should find ways to collaborate, cooperate and coordinate, to train the medical professionals and unite health-care workers under one umbrella,” he said.

Archbishop Lawrence Kai of Thailand focused his attention on the high incidences of drug addiction in his country. “The more we try to rehabilitate the addicts, the more they become victims to drugs,” he said. “The AIDS victims are difficult to handle: They are poor; they have to spend more for their treatment.” He praised the Tamil Carmelite Fathers and Daughters of Charity from the Philippines for their “wondrous rehabilitation ministry.”

Father Sebastian Ouseparambil, from the Catholic Hospitals Association of India, said “tuberculosis and malaria have returned with a vengeance” in rural India.

He said the association plans to develop a curriculum with the Indira Gandhi National Open University, New Delhi, to train health-care professionals “to face the present-day challenges in the pastoral health-care ministry.” He added: “Our aim is to make healthcare affordable to the downtrodden.”

“Through medical college and paramedical institution, St. Johns Academy in Bangalore trains the medical professionals,” noted Father Thomas Kalam, a physician and director of the hospitals association, a CBCI institution.

In his concluding remarks, papal envoy Archbishop Lozano Barragán observed: “The nobility and dignity of each sick person does not diminish with illness. In Christ the health worker identifies himself or herself at one and the same time with Christ the patient and Christ the healer. Pastoral care in health involves bearing witness to Christ in extreme situations, when everything is dark and seems lost.”

Later, the papal envoy declared open the Temple of Inner Healing (an adoration and reconciliation chapel) on the campus of the shrine basilica of Vailankanni.

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