Christian vocation is to serve life, health, pope says in message

IMAGE: CNS photo/John E. Kozar, CNEWA

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Catholic Church’s care for the
sick, especially through Catholic-run hospitals, is an antidote to “the
business mentality that is seeking worldwide to turn health care into a
profit-making enterprise,” Pope Francis said.

In his message for World Day of the Sick, Feb. 11, the pope urged
Catholics individually and as a community to continue to provide loving care
for the sick.

The church marks the day each year on the feast of Our Lady
of Lourdes, and Pope Francis’ message for 2018 had a strong Marian focus,
emphasizing the church’s maternal mission to provide for the spiritual and
physical needs of all people.

“May our prayers to the Mother of God see us united in
an incessant plea that every member of the church may live with love the vocation
to serve life and health,” he prayed.

The church’s motherly concern for the sick has been clear
throughout its history and continues today, the pope said. “In countries
where adequate public health care systems exist, the work of Catholic religious
congregations and dioceses and their hospitals is aimed not only at providing quality
medical care, but also at putting the human person at the center of the healing
process, while carrying out scientific research with full respect for life and
for Christian moral values.”

Perhaps more heroically, he said, “in countries where
health care systems are inadequate or non-existent, the church seeks to do what
she can to improve health, eliminate infant mortality and combat widespread

“The image of the church as a ‘field hospital’ that
welcomes all those wounded by life is a very concrete reality, for in some
parts of the world, missionary and diocesan hospitals are the only institutions
providing necessary care to the population,” he noted.

In rich and poor countries alike, he said, the church
focuses on caring for the sick even when a cure is not possible.

Pope Francis urged Catholic health care institutions and
individual doctors, nurses and staff members to remember the church’s tradition
of generous care for the sick and renew their commitment to continuing that
kind of loving service.

But especially on the World Day of the Sick, he said, “we
cannot forget the tender love and perseverance of many families in caring for
their chronically sick or severely disabled children, parents and relatives.
The care given within families is an extraordinary witness of love for the
human person; it needs to be fittingly acknowledged and supported by suitable

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