By Carmen Elena Villa
ROME, FEB. 11, 2010 (Zenit.org).- On Feb. 11, 1985, Pope John Paul II signed the apostolic letter “Dolentium Hominum,” with which he formally instituted the Pontifical Commission for the Apostolate of Health Care Workers, known today as the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry.
Today, the dicastery seeks to promote the endeavor of education, research and action carried out by the 117,000 international Catholic organizations in the world that offer health care.
To celebrate this jubilee, a three-day international symposium was held at the Vatican titled “The Church at the Service of Love for the Suffering.”
In this interview, ZENIT spoke with the dicastery’s secretary, José Luis Redrado, about the past, present and future of the council.
The bishop participated in the conference with a talk on “The Pontifical Council for Health Agents at the Service of Local Churches: A History of 25 Years.”
ZENIT: You have been with the dicastery the beginning. Can you tell us about the task of starting a new dicastery in the Holy See?
Bishop Redrado: I had just carried out great activity in Spain and, in the beginning, when I found myself here I almost felt I had nothing to do. In reality, everything had to be done.
Things had to be invented, we had to plan an organization chart, undertake innumerable trips, which gave us the possibility of being enthusiastic, of seeing, of being increasingly organized. Today we come to these 25 years with a baggage of immense organization, which I would say is only a platform for the challenges ahead.
ZENIT: How have you seen this dicastery grow?
Bishop Redrado: I have seen it grow as one sees children grow. In the beginning, it seems that life is simple, we don’t know how to begin to walk, we hesitate with great hope of growing and so I have seen it after the first years of careful consideration, of exploring this huge forest which is the pastoral program in general, to make way for health pastoral care, favored, as the Lord has favored it.
ZENIT: What fruits have you seen in these 25 years?
Bishop Redrado: Health pastoral care has made very great qualitative and quantitative progress. I have had the privilege to travel around the world and to see meetings on health with much enthusiasm.
The general institution of the dicastery has had a right arm, which has been the World Day of the Sick, which has given the Church the opportunity to reflect, the opportunity for so many consciences that were asleep to begin to wake up.
We also have dozens of publications, a magazine, we have made more than 259 trips, and behind it all are many people who have worked with much enthusiasm.
ZENIT: The dicastery has already had three presidents. What do you appreciate most in each of them?
Bishop Redrado: It began with Cardinal Fiorenzo Angelini, who today is 94 years old. He was at the head for the first 12 years. He carried out fecund work in this “newborn dicastery.” He was followed by Mexican Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán, who at present, with his illness, is translating into his own life what he has said and done for health pastoral care.
With the new president, Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski from Poland, we hope that our dicastery will be consolidated in the service of the whole world. We hope to do so with creativity and leadership.
These 25 years are the fruit of inspiring leaders, who have made it possible for “this machine” to function. They are experts who have worked in an intelligent and sacrificial way.
ZENIT: In a world where the culture of death reigns, what is the dicastery’s commitment to promote the defense of life from conception until its natural death?
Bishop Redrado: The challenge we face is to illumine the beginning of life, to continue life so that it has meaning. It is also to give meaning to pain and suffering. It is necessary to give health a new style, a new style to life when it is tired, when it seems it has no meaning.
Next week I will go to Portugal and I will speak on the subject of the elderly. The last stage, the stage of life that if we are able to prepare for it beforehand, can be wonderful and give many fruits.