Papal Address to Hospice Foundation

«Find in Jesus Support and Comfort»

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ROME, DEC. 13, 2009 ( Here is the address Benedict XVI gave today while visiting the Hospice Foundation of Rome, which provides free aid to people with terminal cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

I gladly accepted the invitation to pay a visit to the Hospice Foundation of Rome and I am very grateful to be with you. I address a cordial thought to the Cardinal Vicar Agostino Vallini, to the most excellent auxiliary bishops and to the priests who are present. I warmly thank Professor Emanuele Emanuele, president of the Rome Foundation, and Father Leopoldo of Duchi Torlonia, president of the Circle of St. Peter, for the meaningful words that they courteously addressed to me. Along with them I greet the leadership of the Hospice Foundation of Rome, its president, Alessandro Falez, the health, infirmary and administrative personnel, the sisters and those who contribute in various ways to this worthy institution. I address a special greeting to the volunteers of the Circle of St. Peter; I know of the zeal and generosity with which they bring help and comfort to the sick and their families.

The Hospice Foundation of Rome was born in 1998 and was called the Sacred Heart Hospice. It was launched through the initiative of the then general president of the Circle of St. Peter, Father Marcello dei Marchesi Sacchetti, whom I greet with warm and grateful deference. The work of the institution is the care of terminally ill patients. It tries as far as possible to alleviate their sufferings and lovingly accompany them through the course of the sickness. In 11 years those hospitalized in Hospice have gone from three to more than 30, looked after daily by doctors, nurses and volunteers. To this we must add the 90 who are cared for in their home. All of this contributes to make the Hospice Foundation of Rome — which has also been enriched by Unità Alzheimer and an experimental project assisting persons affected by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — a particularly significant reality among the health care organizations in Rome.

Dear Friends! We know how some grave pathologies inevitably cause, for those who suffer from them, moments of crisis, of bewilderment and serious confrontation with their personal situation. Progress in the medical sciences often offers the necessary instruments to face these challenges, at least with respect to the physical aspects. Nevertheless, it is not always possible to find a cure for every sickness, and, consequently, in the hospitals and health care facilities in every part of the world we often meet suffering of many incurable brothers and sisters, who are frequently in the terminal phase.

Today the prevalent mentality of efficiency often tends to marginalize these persons, regarding them as a burden and a problem for society. Whoever has a sense of human dignity knows instead that they must be respected and supported while they face the difficulties and sufferings linked with their health conditions. Toward this end, today one takes recourse more and more to the use of palliative care, which is able to soothe pain that comes from the illness and to help infirm persons to get through it with dignity. Nevertheless, together with the indispensible palliative care clinics, it is necessary to offer concrete gestures of love, of nearness and Christian solidarity to the sick, to meet their need for understanding, comfort and constant encouragement. This is what happily occurs here, at the Hospice Foundation of Rome, which places at the center of its work the care and solicitous welcoming of the sick and their families, in consonance with the teaching of the Church, which, through the centuries, has shown herself to be a mother who loves those who suffer in body and spirit. In congratulating you for your work, I would like to encourage those who — as concrete icons of the good Samaritan, who «shows compassion and takes care of his neighbor» (cf. Luke 10:34) — daily offer the patients and their loved ones the assistance that is appropriate and attentive to each person’s needs.

Dear patients, dear families, I have just met with you individually, and I saw in your eyes the faith and the strength that sustain you in difficulties. I have come to offer to each of you a concrete witness of nearness and affection. I assure you of my prayers, and I invite you to find in Jesus support and comfort, to never lose trust and hope. Your illness is a very painful and unique trial, but before the mystery of God, who took on our mortal flesh, it receives its meaning and becomes a gift and an occasion for sanctification. When the suffering and discomfort are the worst, know that Christ is associating you with his cross because through you he wants to speak a word of love to those who have strayed from the road of life and, closed within their empty egoism, live in sin and separation from God. In fact, your health conditions testify that the true life is not here, but with God, where every one of us will find joy if we humbly walk in the footsteps of the true man: Jesus of Nazareth, Master and Lord.

The season of Advent, in which we are immersed, speaks to us of God’s visit and invites us to prepare his way. In the light of faith we can read in sickness and suffering a special experience of Advent, a visit from God, who, in a mysterious way comes to bring liberation from solitude and meaninglessness and transform suffering in time into a meeting with him, into hope and salvation. The Lord comes, he is here, with us! May this Christian certainty help us also to understand «tribulation» as a way in which he can come to meet each of us and become for each of us the «God who is near,» who liberates and saves.

Christmas, which we are preparing for, offers us the possibility of contemplating the Holy Child, the true light that comes into this world to manifest the «the grace of God, that brings salvation to all men» (Titus 2:11). With Mary’s sentiments, we all entrust ourselves, our lives and our hopes to him. Dear brothers and sisters! With these thoughts I invoke upon all of you the maternal protection of the Mother of Jesus, whom in tribulation the Christian people call upon as «Salus infirmorum» (Health of the Sick) and I offer from my heart a special apostolic benediction, pledge of spiritual and interior happiness and authentic peace in the Lord.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]
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