Pope Francis: The antidote to healthcare inequality is fraternity
By Lydia O'Kane
The World Day of the Sick is marked annually on 11 February. On the eve of this observance, the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development has organized a webinar entitled: “World Day of the Sick: Meaning, Goals and Challenges.”
Thursday’s event retraces the history of the Day, showing its fruits and highlighting the relevance of its message. There is also space dedicated to the experience, challenges and responses to the COVID-19 pandemic
In a video message to participants, Pope Francis took the opportunity to stress the importance of physical and spiritual healing of the body, and the need for effective treatments for everyone.
Sharing in Christ’s sufferings
The Pope noted, “the experience of sickness makes us feel fragile, and it makes us feel in need of others.” Sickness, he said, “raises the question of life’s meaning, which we bring before God in faith.”
Pope Francis explained that through his own sufferings, his predecessor Saint John Paul II, who instituted the World Day of the Sick thirty years ago, became “a sharer in the sufferings of Christ.”
The Pope also underlined that “One must never ‘forget the uniqueness of each patient, his or her dignity and frailties’. It is the person in his or her entirety who is in need of care: body, mind, affections, freedom and will, spiritual life... Care cannot be divided; because the human being cannot be divided,” he said.
He continued, “The saints who cared for the sick always followed the Master’s teaching: heal the wounds of body and soul; pray and act for physical and spiritual healing together.”
Inequalities in healthcare
Turning his attention to the COVID-19 pandemic, he observed that this contagion “is teaching us to view illness as a global and not a merely individual phenomenon.”
Other “pathologies” that threaten humanity and the world, he underlined, included individualism and indifference “that unfortunately end up being amplified in the society of consumerist wellbeing and economic liberalism,” he said.
He also highlighted that even in the field of healthcare, there are “inequalities” where some enjoy so-called “excellence” and many others struggle to access basic treatments.
In order to cure this “social” virus, he said, “the antidote is the culture of fraternity, based on the awareness that we are all equal as human persons, all equal as children of one God.”