Why Is the Church Interested in Palliative Care?

President of Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care Responds

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ROME, NOV. 12, 2004 (Zenit.org).- From Nov. 11-13, experts of more than 70 countries are reflecting in the Vatican on Palliative Care within the framework of the 19th international conference organized by the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care (see ZENIT, Nov. 10, 2004).

Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán, president of the organizing dicastery, explained on Vatican Radio the reason for the meeting.

Q: Does the Church encourage medical research in therapy against pain?

Cardinal Lozano: Yes, absolutely. Christ came to overcome pain (…). Therefore, the Church encourages everything that can be done to overcome pain itself.

Q: How can one explain, to someone who is suffering, the Church’s opposition to euthanasia?

Cardinal Lozano: By clarifying that life is a gift of God and that it does not belong to anyone except him. Therefore, euthanasia is to take something that is not one’s own and to remove it from God’s hand. In no way can one act this way.

Q: What support must patients be given?

Cardinal Lozano: The support must be the most loving, most affectionate, most Christian, and most charitable possible.

Q: Are there discussions in this conference also on the role of psychology?

Cardinal Lozano: Indeed. Psychology is something that helps us, but in this conference its role is centered on what is specifically Christian. Other things, of course, help us.

Q: Is the conference addressing the topic of the renewal of the sacraments of the sick?

Cardinal Lozano: It is the fundamental topic. For the Church, palliative care means the strongest means to try to overcome pain. This palliative of pain is represented by the Eucharist, understood as Viaticum, and by the anointing of the sick.

Q: Is it possible to establish an inter-confessional and inter-religious dialogue on palliative care?

Cardinal Lozano: Of course, and precisely in this conference we engage in it with Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists. This year, moreover, we have a novelty: we are engaging in this dialogue also with non-believers of Europe, with post-Modernism and post-Modernity.

Q: What culture of life exists in our society today?

Cardinal Lozano: I would say that there exists, rather, a very strong threat to the culture of life. All the attacks have been, in fact, directed against the source of life. An example is the manipulation of the human genome.

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