Today, Pope Francis received in audience participants of a meeting organized by the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations.
Here is a translation of the address the Pope gave to those present.
* * *
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I give you my cordial welcome! I thank the President of the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations, Doctor Jose Maria Simon Castellvi, and I greet all of you, participants in this International Conference. I hope these will be fruitful days for your activity: in the light of faith and of reason, you recognize maternity as the fundamental mission of woman, be it in poor countries where birth is still risky for life, be it in those more well-off where often maternity is not adequately considered or promoted.
The first reflection I’d like to share with you is this: we witness today a paradoxical situation, regarding the medical profession. On one hand we see – and we thank God – for the advances in medicine, thanks to the work of scientists who, with passion and without sparing themselves, are dedicated to research of new cures. On the other, however, we also verify the danger that the doctor loses his identity of servant of life. The cultural disorientation has affected an ambit that seemed unassailable: yours, medicine! Although being by their nature at the service of life, the health professions are induced sometimes not to respect life itself. Instead, as the encyclical Caritas in veritate reminds us, “openness to life is at the center of true development. […] If personal and social sensibility is lost to welcoming a new life, other forms of reception useful to social life are hardened. The reception of life tempers moral energies and makes possible mutual help” (n. 28). The paradoxical situation is seen in the fact that, while new rights are attributed to the person, sometimes even presumed, life is not always protected as primary value and primordial right of every man. The ultimate end of medical action always remains the defense and promotion of life.
The second point: in this contradictory context, the Church appeals to the consciences of all professionals and volunteers of health care, particularly you, gynecologists, called to collaborate in the birth of new human lives. Yours is a singular vocation and mission, which needs study, conscience and humanity,
A widespread mentality of the useful, the “throw away culture” which today enslaves the hearts and intelligences of so many, has a very high cost: it requires eliminating human beings, especially if physically or socially weaker. Our answer to this mentality is a decisive and unhesitant “yes” to life. “The first right of a human person is his/her life. He/she has other goods and some of them are more precious; but life is the fundamental good, condition for all the others” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration on Procured Abortion, November 18, 1974, 11). Things have a price and are saleable, but persons have a dignity, they are worth more than things and they have no price. Because of this, attention to human life in its totality has become in recent times a real and proper priority of the Magisterium of the Church, particularly for life which is largely defenseless, namely, that of the disabled, the sick, the unborn, children, the elderly.
Each one of us is called to recognize in the fragile human being the face of the Lord, who in his human flesh experienced indifference and loneliness to which we often condemn the poorest, be it in developing countries, be it in well-off societies. Every unborn child, condemned unjustly to being aborted, has the face of the Lord, who before being born, and then when he was just born, experienced the rejection of the world. And every elderly person, even if he/she is sick or at the end of his/her days, bears in him/herself the face of Christ. They cannot be discarded!
The third aspect is a mandate: be witnesses and propagators of this “culture of life.” Your being Catholic entails a greater responsibility: first of all, toward yourselves, for the commitment of coherence with the Christian vocation; and then towards contemporary culture, to contribute to recognize in human life the transcendent dimension, the imprint of the creative work of God, from the first instance of its conception. This is a commitment of the New Evangelization which requires often going against the current, paying as person. The Lord also counts on you to spread the “gospel of life.”
In this perspective the hospital departments of gynecology are privileged places of witness and evangelization, because wherever the Church is a “vehicle of the presence of the living God,” she becomes at the same time “instrument of a true humanization of man and of the world” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Doctrinal Note on Some Aspects of Evangelization, 9). Maturing the awareness that the center of medical and welfare activity is the human person in his/her condition of fragility, the health care structure becomes a “place in which the endeavor to cure is not an occupation but a mission, where the charity of the Good Samaritan is the first chair and the face of suffering man the face itself of Christ” (Benedict XVI, Address to the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart of Rome, May 3, 2012).
Dear doctor friends, you who are called to take care of human life in its initial phase, all of you must remember with facts and words, that this is always, in all its phases and at every age, sacred and is always of quality. And not because of a discourse of faith, but of reason and science! There is no human life that is more sacred than another, as there is no human life that is qualitatively more significant than another. The credibility of a health care system is not measured only by efficiency but above all by the care and love of persons, whose life is always sacred and inviolable.
Never neglect to pray to the Lord and the Virgin Mary to have the strength to do your work well and to witness with courage the “gospel of life”! I bless you from my heart.[Translation by ZENIT]