Pope Francis meets members of the Religious Association of Social and Health Institutes (ARIS) in the Vatican Pope Francis meets members of the Religious Association of Social and Health Institutes (ARIS) in the Vatican   (VATICAN MEDIA Divisione Foto)

'No one must feel alone in illness,' insists Pope

Pope Francis welcomes members of the Italian Religious Association of Social and Health Institutes (ARIS), praising the Church's exemplary witness in taking care of the ill, and insists that 'No one must feel alone in illness.'

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

'No one must feel alone in illness,' insisted Pope Francis as he addressed members of the Italian Religious Association of Social and Health Institutes (ARIS) in the Vatican on Thursday morning.

Expressing his appreciation and encouragement, the Pope observed that ARIS is involved in the management of healthcare facilities of Christian inspiration, and could be compared to the inn of the Good Samaritan, where the sick can receive "the oil of consolation and the wine of hope."

Church's exemplary witness 

The Pope recalled that religious healthcare in Italy has a beautiful and centuries-old history.

"The Church has done much, through healthcare, to listen to and pay attention to the poor, weak and abandoned segments of society. There has been no lack of authoritative witnesses in this sphere, who have known how to recognise and serve the sick and suffering Christ to the point of the complete gift of self, even at the sacrifice of one's life."

In healthcare, the Pope warned against the culture of discarding. "When the sick person is not placed at the centre and considered in his or her dignity, attitudes are generated that can even lead to speculation on the misfortunes of others, and this must make us vigilant."

As the Church, the Holy Father urged, "we are called to respond above all to the demand for the health of the poorest, the excluded and those who, for economic or cultural reasons, see their needs ignored."

Duty to defend the right to care

He lamented that in Italy, he sees, a return of 'health poverty,' especially in the regions marked by more difficult socio-economic situations.

"There are people who, because of a lack of means, are unable to seek treatment, for whom even the payment of a co-payment is a problem; and there are people who have difficulty in accessing health services because of very long waiting lists, even for urgent and necessary visits."

The need for intermediate care, he added, is also growing, "given the increasing tendency of hospitals to discharge the sick in a short time, favouring the treatment of the more acute phases of the illness over that of chronic pathologies." 

Integral care

"Health care of Christian inspiration has a duty to defend the right to care, especially of the weaker sections of society, privileging the places where people are most suffering and least cared for."

The Pope encouraged healthcare workers always to accompany the people they welcome into their institutions with integral care, which does not neglect the spiritual and religious assistance of the sick, their families and health workers.

In this, too, he said, healthcare institutions of Christian inspiration "should be exemplary." "It is not just a matter of offering sacramental pastoral care, but of giving complete attention to the person."

Never alone in illness

"No one must feel alone in illness!" he said. "On the contrary, each person should be supported in his or her questions of meaning and helped to walk the sometimes long and tiring road of infirmity with Christian hope."

Pope Francis concluded, telling them to "keep alive the charism of your Founders, not so much to imitate their gestures, but rather to welcome their spirit, not so much to defend the past, but to build a present and a future in which to announce, with your presence, God's closeness to the sick, especially the most disadvantaged and marginalised by the logic of profit."

The Holy Father prayed that the Blessed Mother accompany them, as he offered them his blessing, and asked them to pray for him.

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13 April 2023, 10:35