By Francesca Merlo
Pope Francis opened his Message for International Nurses Day by noting that due to the global health emergency in which we find ourselves, “we have rediscovered the fundamental importance of the role being played by nurses and midwives”.
Those who put others first
He said each day, as we face this critical time, we witness the courage and sacrifices made by healthcare workers and by “nurses in particular”. They dedicate themselves, “to the point of putting their own health at risk”, he said, adding that, sadly, this has been demonstrated through the high number of healthcare workers who have died “as a result of their faithful service”.
“I pray for them”, said the Pope, “and for all the victims of this epidemic”. “The Lord knows each of them by name”.
Guardians of life
“Nurses have historically played a central role in health care”, said the Pope. He noted that this year, on this exact day, we face the bicentennial of the birth of Florence Nightingale, “the pioneer of modern nursing”. He described nurses as “guardians and preservers of life” who never cease to offer “courage, hope and trust” as they administer necessary treatment.
“Dear nurses”, said Pope Francis, “moral responsibility is the hallmark of your professional service”. Nurses are tasked with “continuous listening”, as they take care of women and men, children and the elderly, “in every phase of their life, from birth to death”, said the Pope. Before each unique situation, nurses do not only follow a protocol, but a constant effort of “discernment and attention”.
Carrying out the mission of Jesus
Nurses are amongst the Saints next door, said the Pope. “You are an image of the Church as a ‘field hospital’ that continues to carry out the mission of Jesus Christ, who drew near to and healed people with all kinds of sickness and who stooped down to wash the feet of his disciples. Thank you for your service to humanity”, he added.
Addressing leaders of nations throughout the world, Pope Francis noted that in many countries the pandemic has also brought to light a number of “deficiencies” in the provision of healthcare. He asked that leaders “invest in healthcare as the primary common good by strengthening its systems and employing greater numbers of nurses, so as to ensure adequate care to everyone, with respect for the dignity of each person”.
He expressed the importance of enhancing nurses and midwives’ professionalism and involvement with the suitable “scientific, human, psychological and spiritual tools” necessary for their training, “so that they can carry out their service in full dignity”.
The role of the associations
The Pope noted that in this regard, associations of healthcare workers play an important role. “In addition to offering comprehensive training, they support their individual members, making them feel part of a larger body, never dismayed and alone as they face the ethical, economic and human challenges that their profession entails”.
A special word to midwives
Addressing a “special word” to midwives, Pope Francis noted that their work is amongst the most notable professions, “for it is directly dedicated to the service of life and of motherhood”. Today, too, he added, “the Holy Father looks at you with gratitude”.
Finally, Pope Francis assured all nurses and midwives of his prayers for them, their families, and all those for whom they care. Imparting his Apostolic Blessing to each of them he concluded, saying, “may this annual celebration highlight the dignity of your work for the benefit of the health of society as a whole”.