Pope Francis on Thursday greeted young patients, their families and hospital staff of Rome’s ‘Bambino Gesù’ Children’s Hospital and encouraged them to nurture hope and to say ‘thank you’ to God for having shown us the way to give meaning to our human existence.
Amongst the hundreds of children at the audience who receive care from the Vatican hospital, were young patients from across the world including 15 kids from the Central African Republic where the ‘Bambino Gesù’ has a special cooperation project like the ones in Jordan and in Palestine which reach out to give medical assistance to refugee children from Syria and Iraq.
The packed audience that took place in the Paul VI Hall was opened by ‘Bambino Gesù’ President Mariella Enoc who spoke about how the hospital has a system stretching well beyond regional and national boundaries with Centers in impoverished Italian regions and with numerous international missions in developing nations.
She explained that today the ‘Bambino Gesù’ is present in 12 countries, with the goal of providing care and passing on its experience in the poorest areas of the world.
Pope Francis then listened to questions asked by Valentina, to an appeal made by Dino, to the words of Serena and to the doubts raised by Luca who is at the beginning of his professional and human experience as a pediatric nurse.
He told Valentina, who is also a nurse, that he has no answer to her question ‘why do children suffer?’: “I do not have the answer” he said. Not even Jesus had an answer to this question. But Jesus, he said, shows us the way to give meaning to our human experience; he himself suffered offering his own life for our salvation. All we can do, the Pope said, is to be close to the child who suffers, cry with him, pray with him, look to the crucified Jesus.
He also urged Christians searching for a balm for those who are close to those who suffer never to neglect the value of gratitude and to always say ‘thank you’.
“To say thank you is a medicine against bouts of hopelessness, which is a contagious ailment,” he said.
To say thank you is to nurture hope, the Pope continued, and hope is the ‘fuel’ of Christian life that allows us to go forward every day.
To Dino, a ‘Bambino Gesù’ staff member who was asking for greater spaces to offer the patients of the hospital, the Pope said: “It is essential to open one’s heart: Providence will find concrete spaces!”
But he also took the occasion to warn against the temptation of transforming a hospital into a place in which to do business, a place where doctors and nurses become profiteers saying “one of the worst cancers in a hospital is corruption.”
With strong words and strong tones against what he called a profit-driven health industry that deceives many, the Pope reiterated that we are all sinners, but we must learn from children and never be corrupt.
And to Luca who is beginning his career as a pediatric nurse the Pope said: “follow your dreams”; never stop doing good and never give up your wish to give life to great projects.
“A life without dreams is not worthy of God, a life that is tired, resigned and lacking enthusiasm is not Christian,” he said.
And finally, to Serena, a former oncological patient of the Children’s Hospital who is studying to become a doctor, the Pope spoke of the special strength and joy of those who dedicated their lives and their talents for others: “this is a gift” he said.
He recalled an Italian nun whom he said saved his life when, as a young man in Buenos Aires he was struck by a severe case of pneumonia. The Pope spoke of her joyfulness and of the joy that derives of “sowing life, of helping young lives to grow, of giving to others”.
“This,” he said, “will be your best stipend!”