Pope praises work of Italian Catholic NGO ensuring healthcare in Africa

On Saturday Pope Francis meets Doctors with Africa CUAMM, an Italian Catholic non-government organization engaged in promoting healthcare in Africa, on the occasion of their annual meeting in Rome.

By Vatican News staff writer

Formerly known as the University College for Aspiring Missionary Doctors, CUAMM  was founded in 1950 and currently is present in seven African countries – Angola, Ethiopia, Mozambique, South Sudan, Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Uganda working in partnership with African hospitals, nursing and midwifery schools and universities. Its projects and research focus on maternal, child and newborn health; infectious diseases; universal health coverage and equity; nutrition and chronic diseases.

Welcoming members of the association to the Vatican on Saturday morning, Pope Francis recalled the history of the group starting 70 years ago in Padua, Italy, when a hostel opened to host young African medical students. From that time, this outreach of sharing and service has expanded to the entire African continent by providing medical care, local training and promoting development.

Healthcare, a primary good

The Pope described CUAMM's work as a concrete example of putting into practice what we ask in the Our Father, to "Give us this day our daily bread," with bread in this case meaning health. The Pope noted that health is "a primary good" like bread, water, a home or work. He praised their efforts to provide access to basic health care and the witness it provides in contrast to the billions spent on weapons today. Yet the needs are enormous, and he recalled how still so many others cannot deliver their babies safely and children continue to die in early childhood.

Central African Republic and South Sudan

Recalling his visit to the Central African Republic in 2015 to open the Holy Door in the capital Bangui, the Pope also remembered South Sudan he hopes to visit early next year. As poor and fragile countries, often exploited for the resources, the Pope said "instead the Lord considers his beloved ones, in which he sends you to be good Samaritans, witnesses of his Gospel."

“Do not be afraid to face difficult challenges, to intervene in remote places marked by violence, where populations do not have the opportunity to care. Be with them! Should it take years of toil, should there be successive disappointments and failures to achieve results, do not be discouraged. Persevere with dogged service and dialogue, open to all as instruments for peace in overcoming conflicts.”

Working together

The Pope also paid tribute to how the CUAMM works in Africa always in collaboration with local churches and institutions to more effectively share, support and promote the communities they serve in Africa. By joining forces and sharing experience and expertise, they can better serve everyone, he noted, especially when put to the test as with the Covid pandemic, wars and the economic crisis weighing heavily the lives of everyone, worsening poverty, hunger and malnutrition. The Pope described it as a hidden "war" often overlooked and that "instead impacts the hardest, especially on the poorest."

“May the Lord help you to cross this "night" with courage, with your hearts turned to the dawn, which will illuminate those small shoots of hope that we already glimpse and to which you yourselves are witnesses. I thank you for being a voice of what Africa is experiencing; for bringing to the surface the hidden and silent sufferings of the poor you encounter in your daily commitment.”

He urged them to continue in giving a voice to Africa, promoting awareness, telling the world about its struggles and  hopes "to stir the conscience of a world sometimes focused too much on itself and little on the other. The Lord hears the cry of his oppressed people and asks us to be artisans of a new future, humble and tenacious, with the poorest."

Bringing up leaders

In conclusion, the Pope encouraged them to focus especially on young people by helping them in every way through training, meetings, university exchange programs and so forth, so that they may be present and future protagonists for good in their home countries, bringing up leaders capable of moving forward integral human development.

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19 November 2022, 12:21