Pope Francis on September 2, 2019, urged members of the Italian Association of Medical Oncology (IAMO) to “foster relations” that lead to the sharing of medical knowledge, as well as focus on the care of each person
His comments can in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Vatican Palace as he received the group.
“In a world such as ours, often pushed to oppositions in every sphere of human coexistence, to create and foster relations is an essential commitment for building the common good,” Pope Francis said. “The conscious choice, and often tiring, of a style that unites instead of dividing, is represented, in the IAMO’s whole life, by the care of the relationship with the sick person, and is manifested in fact today by the presence among you of some patients.
“The choice to take part together in this meeting, being seated one next to the other, is a strong message and an eloquent sign not only for the world of health but for the whole society, called to renew itself in a solidary and fraternal style.”
* * *
The Holy Father’s Address
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
My warm greeting goes to you all: to the President, whom I thank for her words, to the doctors and patients present at this meeting, and to all the members.
Since 1973, the Italian Association of Medical Oncology has been carrying out a precious function in the realm of health, encouraging research and prevention, endeavoring to improve diagnosis and care, and developing numerous updating initiatives and formation for doctors and other health workers in the oncological sector. Your Statue illustrates the Association’s objective that, being non-profit, intends “to promote progress in the clinical, experimental and socio-welfare field” (Article 2), in active collaboration between the doctors and the different specializations, organisms and institutions. You are committed to “foster relations” and to establish scientific relations and collaboration” (Ibid.) within the scientific and health world, seeking to encourage the sharing of objectives attained and multi-disciplinarity, not rarely impeded by jealous protection of knowledge.
In a world such as ours, often pushed to oppositions in every sphere of human coexistence, to create and foster relations is an essential commitment for building the common good. The conscious choice, and often tiring, of a style that unites instead of dividing, is represented, in the IAMO’s whole life, by the care of the relationship with the sick person, and is manifested in fact today by the presence among you of some patients. The choice to take part together in this meeting, being seated one next to the other, is a strong message and an eloquent sign not only for the world of health but for the whole society, called to renew itself in a solidary and fraternal style.
The National Congress, which you will hold in a few weeks, will be dedicated in fact to the care of the sick individual, to the “best care for every patient,” on the basis of the biological and clinical characteristics of each one. It’s thus that the precision oncology, which you promote, becomes also an oncology of mercy, because the effort to personalize care reveals not only attention to the illness but to the sick person and his characteristics, to the way he reacts to the medicines, to the most painful information, to suffering. An oncology of this sort goes beyond the implementation of protocols and reveals a commitment of a technology that is put at the service of persons.
Technology isn’t at the service of man when it reduces him to a thing when it distinguishes between who deserves to be cared for and who doesn’t, because he is considered only a burden, sometimes even discarded. The practice of euthanasia, which has already become legal in several States, only seemingly proposes to encourage personal freedom; in reality it is based on a utilitarian vision of the person, who becomes useless or can be equated to a cost, if from the medical point of view, there is no hope of improvement or of avoiding pain. On the contrary, the commitment to accompany the sick person and his dear ones in all the phases of the course, trying to alleviate the sufferings through palliation or offering a family environment in hospices, which are ever more numerous, contributes to create a culture and practices that are more attentive to the value of every person. Never lose heart because of the incomprehension you might meet, or before the insistent proposal of more radical and hasty ways. If death is chosen, the problems are, in a certain sense, resolved; however, how much bitterness there is behind this reasoning, and what refusal of help the choice entails of giving up everything and severing every bond! Sometimes, we are in a sort of Pandora’s box: everything is known, everything is explained, everything is resolved but one thing remains hidden: hope. And we must go to seek this, how to translate hope, rather, how to give it in the most limited cases.
Then, your service becomes also a work of sensitization in dealing with a society that is little aware and at times distracted. You recall to it in many ways the importance of prevention, to be understood either as early diagnosis, capable of reducing sensibly the danger of oncological illnesses, be it as respect of the body itself and of its exigencies. In fact, the best and truest prevention is that of a healthy environment and of respect of the human body and of its laws. As we know, this depends not only on the individual choices but also on the places where one lives that, especially in great centers, subject the body to continuous stress, given life’s rhythms and exposure to polluting agents. This brings our attention to the care of the natural environment, our common home, which we must respect so that in turn it respects us. The protection of the environment and the fight against tumors then become two phases of the same problem, two complementary aspects of the same battle of civility and humanity.
In your commitment in favor of the sick, of the health system and of the whole society, I invite you to always have in mind the example of Jesus, who was the greatest Teacher of humanity, to inspire your gestures in Him and make Him your journey’s companion. May His figure — the contemplation of which is never exhausted, so great is the light that emanates from it –, inspire the sick and help them to find the strength not to interrupt the bonds of love, to offer their suffering for brothers, to keep alive their friendship with God. May it inspire the doctors — who in a certain way said He was your colleague, a doctor sent by the Father to heal humanity — to always look to the good of others, to spend themselves generously, to fight for a more solidary world. May it inspire each one to be close to those that suffer, to the little ones first of all, and to put the weak in the first place, so that a more human society grows and relations are marked by gratuitousness, more than opportunity.
Upon all your activity I invoke God’s blessing and entrust you to the Virgin Mary, so that she may watch over you, the doctors and all the sick with a mother’s affection. While assuring you that I will accompany you with my prayer, I ask you also to pray for me. Thank you!
© Libreria Editrice Vatican[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]