Benedict XVI's Words at the Padre Pio Hospital

«In Hospitals One Touches the Preciousness of Our Existence»

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

SAN GIOVANNI ROTONDO, Italy, JUNE 21, 2009 ( Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today at the hospital established by Padre Pio, the Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza, the «Home to Relieve Suffering,» in San Giovanni Rotondo, where he is visiting.

* * *

Dear brothers and sisters,

Beloved sick people,

In this my visit to San Giovanni Rotondo, I could not miss a stop at the Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza, designed and built by St. Pio of Pietrelcina as a «place of prayer and science where the human race finds itself again in Christ Crucified as a single flock with one shepherd.» Precisely for this reason he wanted to entrust it to the material and spiritual support of the prayer groups, who here have the center of their mission to serve the Church. Padre Pio had the desire that in this well equipped hospital the commitment of science in treating the patient never be separated from a filial trust in God, infinitely tender and merciful. Inaugurating it on May 5, 1956, he called it «a creature of Providence» and spoke of this institution as «a seed planted by God on earth, which he will warm with the rays of his love.»

Here I am among you, therefore, to thank God for the good that, faithful to the directives of a humble Capuchin Friar for over fifty years, you do in this «Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza,» with recognized scientific and a medical results. It is not possible for me unfortunately, as I would like, to visit each hall and greet each patient one by one along with those who care for them. But I want to convey to everyone — patients, doctors, family members, health and pastoral workers — a word of paternal comfort and encouragement to continue together this evangelical work to relieve suffering, making the most of every resource for the human and spiritual good of the sick and their families.

With these sentiments, I cordially greet all of you, starting with you, brothers and sisters who are being tried by illness. I greet the doctors, nurses and medical staff and administration. I greet you, revered Capuchin Fathers, who, as chaplains, continue the apostolate of your holy confrere. I greet the prelates and, first of all, the Archbishop Domenico Umberto D’Ambrosio, former pastor of this diocese, and now called upon to lead the archdiocesan community of Lecce. I am grateful for the words that he addressed to me on your behalf. I next greet the director general of the hospital, Doctor Dominic Crupi, and the representative of the sick, and I am grateful for the kind and cordial words that they have just addressed to me, allowing me to better know what is being done here and the spirit with which you carry it out.

Each time one enters a place of care, one’s thoughts turn naturally to the mystery of disease and pain, to the hope of healing and to the inestimable value of health, which is often only recognized when it is lost. In hospitals one touches with one’s hands the preciousness of our existence, but also its fragility. Following the example of Jesus, who traveled throughout Galilee, «healing every disease and every infirmity among the people» (Mt 4:23), the Church, from its very beginnings, moved by the Holy Spirit, has considered it her duty and privilege to stand beside those who suffer, cultivating a preferential attention for the sick.

Sickness, which manifests itself in many forms and strikes in different ways, raises disturbing questions: Why do we suffer? Can the experience of pain be considered positive? Who can liberate us from suffering and death? Existential questions, which remain often unanswered humanly, since suffering is an unfathomable mystery for our reason. Suffering is part of the very mystery of the human person. And that which I emphasized in the encyclical letter «Spe Salvi,» noting that «it follows, on the one hand, from our finitude, and on the other hand, from the mass of guilt that has accumulated throughout history and even at present continues its unstoppable growth.» And I added that «certainly we must do everything we can to reduce suffering … but to eliminate it completely from the world is not in our possibilities simply because … none of us is able to eliminate the power of evil … continually the source of suffering» (see n.36).

Only God can remove the power of evil. Precisely due to the fact that Jesus Christ came into the world to reveal the divine plan of our salvation, faith helps us to penetrate the meaning of all things human and therefore also of suffering. There is, therefore, an intimate relationship between the Cross of Jesus — the supreme symbol of the pain and the price of our freedom — and our pain, which is transformed and transcended when it is lived in the awareness of the closeness and solidarity of God. Padre Pio had understood this profound truth and, on the first anniversary of this work, said that in it «those who suffer must live the love of God through the wise acceptance of their pain, through serene meditation on their destiny to him» (Meeting of May 5, 1957). He noted further that in the Casa Sollievo «the recovering, doctors, priests will be reserves of love, which in as much as it abounds in one, the more it will be communicated to others» (ibid.).

Be «reserves of love»: This, dear brothers and sisters, is the mission that this evening our saint refers you to, who each in his own way form the great family of this Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza. May the Lord help you bring to fruition the project initiated by Padre Pio with the support of all: doctors and scientific researchers, health care professionals and the employees of various departments, volunteers and benefactors, the Capuchin friars and other priests. Without forgetting the prayer groups that «attached to the house of relief, are the advanced positions of this citadel of charity, nurseries of faith, outbursts of love» (Padre Pio, Speech, May 5, 1966). On each and every one I invoke the intercession of Padre Pio and the maternal protection of Mary, Health of the Sick. Thank you again for your welcome and, while I assure you of my prayers for each of you, I cordially bless you all.

[Translation by ZENIT]
Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry


Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation