By Devin Watkins
“By His compassionate closeness, Jesus showed the infinite love of God our Father for His children most in need.”
That was the model Pope Francis held out to members of the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associates (FIAMC), in his address to delegates on Saturday morning.
Jesus, said the Pope, showed compassionate concern for the sick, leading the early Christian community to call Him a “physician”.
He drew near to the sick and disabled, who were often marginalized by their contemporaries as sinners.
“Care for the sick emerges, then, as an essential aspect of Christ’s mission and, consequently, of the Church’s mission as well,” said Pope Francis.
Draw near to patients
The “way” that Jesus cared for the sick is instructive for doctors and nurses of all ages, he said.
That manner involved “drawing near to the person”, despite societal norms. Jesus, the Pope noted, even asks the patient “What do you want me to do for you?”, entering into a dialogue and beginning “a process of relief, consolation, reconciliation, and healing.”
“When care is given with genuine love for the other, it expands the horizons of the recipient, for human beings are a unity: a unity of spirit, soul and body.”
Care for whole person
Pope Francis said Jesus healed the whole person, even “raising up and sending forth those whom He has drawn near to and healed.”
Many of Jesus’ patients even became His disciples.
Catholic medical professionals, said Pope Francis, “are called to provide care with sensitivity and with respect for the dignity and for the physical and psychological integrity of each person.”
He also urged them to make their caregiving more humane by listening attentively, offering encouragement and comfort, and giving hope.
Respect for life
Pope Francis recognized that the last 100 years have seen tremendous progress in medical research and treatments. “We can and should alleviate suffering,” he said, adding that this also means teaching people to care more about their own health.
The Holy Father said caring for others “entails respect for the gift of life from beginning to end.”
“For we are not masters of life,” he noted. “It is given to us in trust, and physicians stand at its service.”
Finally, the Pope urged Catholic physicians to unite professionalism, teamwork, and ethical integrity for the benefit of all patients.
And he invited them to read the Bible and receive the Sacraments frequently.
“The Holy Spirit will grant you the gift of discernment needed to confront sensitive and complex situations, and to say the right things in the right way and to be silent in the right moments.”