The Vatican’s health care council opens its 30th international conference this week, with the theme this year drawn from Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’.
This morning, in the Holy See Press Office, a press conference was held to present the 30th International Conference organised by the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry on the theme “The culture of Salus and welcome at the service of man and the planet” (Vatican City, 19-21 November).
The speakers at the conference were Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers (for Health Pastoral Care); Msgr. Jean-Marie Mate Musivi Mupendawatu and Fr. Augusto Chendi, M.I., respectively secretary and under-secretary of the same dicastery; Dr. Antonio Maria Pasciuto, president of the Italian Association for Environmental Medicine and Health, Italy; and Dr. Lilian Corra, president of the Argentine Association of Doctors for the Environment, Argentina.
Archbishop Zimowski explained that the Conference is inspired by Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato si’”, and seeks to identify methods and indications for a pastoral response to the needs, in many cases urgent, expressed in the document. He also noted the event’s proximity to the climate conference in Paris and the opening of the Jubilee Year, which will offer an opportunity to reflect on love for others and for the Lord’s work. In addition, this year the Pontifical Council celebrates the 30th anniversary of its establishment and the 20th anniversary of John Paul II’s encyclical Evangelium Vitae.
The profound bond between the world of sickness and healthcare with the Mother of Jesus, as shown in the celebration of World Day of the Sick on 11 February, the liturgical memory of Our Lady of Lourdes, also inspires the theme of this Day in 2016, to be celebrated in Nazareth on the theme “Entrusting oneself to the merciful Jesus like Mary: do whatever he tells you”.
The president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers (Health Pastoral Care) reported that the 30th International Conference will be attended by 500 people from around 60 countries of the five continents. The event will also involve contributions from theologians, biblical scholars, doctors, scientists, diplomats and legal experts of international standing.
The conference will begin with Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, presided by Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council “Justice and Peace”, and on the same morning Pope Francis will receive in audience all the participants.
Msgr. Jean-Marie Mate Musivi Mupendawatu explained that the Conference, taking as its starting point the encyclical “Laudato si’”, will consider climate change and the defence of biodiversity, information and technological pollution, animal experimentation and genetic modification, environmental stress and working medicine, pathologies linked to climate change and international legislation on environmental issues.
He continued, “Special attention will be dedicated to the theme of the challenges to be faced nowadays at world summits: the right of access to clean drinking water, denied to many; sanitation problems in urban areas and especially on the outskirts of cities. Projects for development and business initiatives, particularly in poor countries, have an impact on the environment that is not infrequently neglected or underestimated. It is therefore urgent to ensure that development plans respect life and the environment, and are therefore far from the devastating aims of mere profit”.
“Finally”, he added, “reflection on the anthropological roots of the ecological crisis would be timely in view of a hoped-for ecological conversion, deriving from an increased awareness of the responsibilities of each person, in order to inspire change in the direction of a rediscovered harmony between man and the environment”.
Dr. Corra commented that a recent press release from the World Health Organisation indicates that “few risks affect health as much as air contamination, which poses by far the most serious danger to health. It is responsible for one in every eight deaths, is the cause of more than 80% of mortality in countries with medium to low income, and has particularly worrying effects on fertility and neurological development, which can manifest themselves as behavioural disorders and impaired intellectual performance”.