Pope Francis on March 2, 2019, received in audience, in Paul VI Hall, the Italian Association Against Leukemia, Lymphoma, and Myeloma, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of its foundation, and he gave the address that we translate below.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I’m happy to meet with you on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the Italian Association Against Leukemia, Lymphoma, and Myeloma. I greet you all affectionately; in particular, I greet the sick gathered here, with a special thought for those who were unable to be present. I thank your President, Professor Sergio Amadori, for his words, as well as the Doctors, the Health Personnel, all those involved in research, the volunteers and those that share the aim of your praiseworthy Association.
In today’s liturgy, the Church invites us to read the Book of Sirach (Cf. 17:1-13) about the great gifts that God has given men. After having created them, “He filled them with knowledge and understanding, and showed them good and evil” (v. 7), and “He bestowed knowledge upon them, and allotted to them the law of life” (v. 11). Science, as I was already able to recall, “is a powerful means to understand better be it the nature that surrounds us be it human health. Our knowledge progresses and with it the most refined means and technologies increase, which enable us to look not only at the more intimate structures of living organisms, man included, but even to intervene on them in such a profound and precise way as to even make possible the modification of our DNA itself (Address to the 4th International Conference Organized by the Pontifical Council for Culture on Regenerative Medicine, April 28, 2018).
The Church praises and encourages every effort of research and of application geared to the care of suffering persons. Therefore, I’m happy to express my appreciation for all that your Association has done in these decades. Through its precious activity, it has become an important presence on the national territory, placing itself at the service of the sick and collaborating with various specialized Centers. Your main lines of action are very effective regarding scientific research, health care and formation of the personnel. In particular, in these three realms, you acquit the roles to which man is called.
With scientific research you investigate man’s biological dimension, to be able to alleviate him from sickness, with actions geared to prevention and with ever more effective therapies. With health care you make yourselves close to the suffering, to accompany them in the time of suffering, so that no one ever feels alone or has the sensation of being a ”reject” in regard to the social context. Finally, with the care and formation of the personnel, you qualify your action to foster a global taking charge of the sick person so that the necessary therapeutic alliance is realized between the patient and the health agents themselves, called to live every day involved in the experience of suffering.
You are accompanied in these tasks by the extraordinary witness of a generous volunteer, of so many men and women who offer their time to stay next to the sick. Like Mary, who stayed at the foot of Jesus’ Cross, they are also near the bed of the suffering and carry out that accompaniment that brings so much consolation: it’s the presence of tenderness and comfort, which fulfills that Commandment of mutual and fraternal love that Jesus gave us (Cf. Mark 12:31). This attitude of solicitous closeness is all the more necessary in dealing with the hematologic sick person, whose situation is complex because of the perception itself of the sickness, in its specificity.
At times a prolonged stay in isolation wards is truly heavy to endure; the person feels in his/her own flesh the impression of feeling separated from the world, from relationships, from daily life. The course itself of the sickness and of the therapies constrains him/her to wonder about his/her future. I want to assure all the sick, who live this experience, that they are not alone: the Lord, who felt the hard experience of pain and of the cross, is there next to them. The presence of so many persons that share with them these difficult moments is a tangible sign of Jesus’ presence and consolation and of His Mother, the Virgin Mary, Mother of all the Sick. I think, in particular, of all those that express the Church’s sharing with persons suffering these pathologies: the Chaplains, the Deacons, the Extraordinary Ministers of Communion. Through their spiritual and fraternal testimony, the whole community of believers is there, which assists and consoles, becoming a healing community that renders Jesus’ desire concrete “that they all may be one,” beginning from the weakest and most vulnerable (John 17:21).
The role of the doctors, nurses, biologists, lab technicians is ever more determinant, not only in terms of professionalism and scientific formation but also in the spiritual realm, where they are called to care for persons in their totality of body and spirit. The cure is not of the sickness, of an organ, or of a cell, but of a person. In his/her spirituality, the person is not exhausted in his/her corporeity; but the fact that the spirit transcends the body makes it so that this is included in a greater vitality and dignity, which is not that proper to biology, but that proper of the person and of the spirit.
Dear brothers and sisters, may your history, your profuse work in these 50 years, the results reached by research and by scientific progress be a stimulus for a renewed impetus geared to cure and improve the lives of sick persons. May your praiseworthy commitment be able to sensitize ever more every person to the culture of gift and of care of the other, essential food for the experience of every human community.
I invoke upon your work the assistance of the Holy Spirit and, while I ask you to pray for me, I impart to you my heartfelt Apostolic Blessing.
© Libreria Editrice Vatican[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]