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Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Vatican City,  (VIS) - "The Hospital, Setting for Evangelisation: a Human and Spiritual Mission" is the theme of the twenty-seventh international conference of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care which will be held from 15 to 17 November in the Vatican's New Synod Hall. At the end of the conference, participants are due to be received in audience by Benedict XVI.

Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the dicastery, and Fr. Augusto Chendi M.I., under secretary, presented the aims of the conference at the Holy See Press Office this morning.

"Go, teach and heal the sick, is Jesus' mandate", said Archbishop Zimowski, "upon which are based two of the most fundamental activities of His Church: the proclamation of the Word and the care of the sick. … In the light of the current Year of Faith and the recent thirteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, hospitals, as important places for evangelisation, ... today constitute a crossroads of cultures and religions, areas where the apostolate of mercy, as defined by Blessed Pope John Paul II, finds exalted expression".

He observed, "In industrialised countries, aside from the grave economic and financial crises which have struck a number of nations and led to a drastic review of health services, serious challenges exist, beginning with the preservation of the identity of Catholic hospitals and other health centres, and the maintenance of their specific role of 'subsidiarity'. This must be achieved without in any way diminishing the importance of fundamental issues such as full respect for life from conception to natural end; the humanisation of healthcare (which means showing full respect for patients, their identity and life experiences); palliative care, etc.".

With regard to those countries facing greater economic hardships, the archbishop spoke of grave difficulties in accessing basic healthcare, and recalled that "people often die on account of a lack of basic medicines costing just a few dollars, as in the case of anti-malarial treatments". He also emphasised the scarcity of basic diagnostic instruments and specialised training for healthcare personnel, due primarily to "the lack of opportunities" for further study, usually for economic reasons. He also noted that "the few resources available to hospitals in the poorest regions must be used for the benefit of the population without discrimination on the basis of faith or ethnic origin, in accordance with the Word, the teachings of the Church and the spirit and history of missions".

He concluded, "What unites large urban hospitals and the small rural clinics … is the relationship between patients and healthcare workers, … the fact that they belong to the Universal Catholic Church, and necessarily adhere to her principles and teachings".

In his address, Fr. Chendi announced that the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Health Workers, on the occasion of the next World Day of the Sick (11 February 2013) will publish a manual, translated into various languages and valid for the whole of the Liturgical Year. The new volume will offer patients and all those involved in their physical and spiritual care a point of reference for theological reflection, pastoral care and prayer.

"Our intention in entrusting this manual to the Church, and to the world of healthcare, parishes and voluntary work, is to create a communion of grace, prayer and mutual charity", he said. "This, we hope will help us see in the mystery of suffering ... the concrete and daily testimony of those who bring good to the sick, and who bring good through their own sickness. In this way such people bear a valid witness to the faith which, from the sickbed and close to those who suffer, is an important source of evangelisation and hope".


Vatican City,  (VIS) - Made public today was the final document of the First Integrated Meeting on the Pastoral Care of the Road/Street for the Continent of Africa and Madagascar, organised by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples in collaboration with the Episcopal Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People of Tanzania. The event was attended by bishops, priests, religious and lay people from thirty-one African countries: Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Congo R.D., Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea-Conakry, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The meeting - which was held in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, in September and had as its theme "Jesus came up and walked by their side" - examined all aspects of life of the road/street including: road security, voluntary and forced prostitution, trafficking in human beings for sexual exploitation, street children, and human rights especially with respect to the human dignity of women, young girls and children.

Among the conclusions they reached, the participants recognised that Africa "is a continent where millions of people, either willingly or unwillingly, are daily on the move, thus transforming African roads and streets into privileged place of evangelisation and education". They also noted how "the road/street in Africa and Madagascar, which facilitates daily life, human and inter-cultural communications, also poses serious danger to life, facilitates the exploitation of human persons and contributes to the spread of diseases such as HIV/AIDS. These negative aspects often arise from irregular long hours of work, lack of rest, lack of spiritual guidance, corruption and organised criminality".

In order to combat such phenomena the document makes a number of recommendations including the creation of special offices in episcopal conferences and dioceses for education and formation programmes to promote awareness about street women/young girls and street children, long-distant truck drivers and road security, and about practices which undermine human dignity and endanger life. The document also suggests "the inculturation of the Gospel as a priority in all national and diocesan pastoral programmes in order to liberate women, young girls and children", and the lobbying of "African governments to exercise law and order to protect the dignity and life of innocent women/young girls and children at risk on the continent".

The participants also identify a number of general actions to be taken, including collaboration with episcopal conferences on other continents with a view to coordinating efforts to prevent trafficking in women/young girls/children for the purpose of sexual and labour exploitation; the development of networking in order to assist victims through ecclesial/interfaith collaboration at national, regional and continental level, and the formation of mobile chaplains and lay ministers with adequate preparation and the skills necessary to minister to people on the road".

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