Monday, November 17, 2008

Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care: Helping Sick Children


VATICAN CITY , 15 NOV 2008 ( VIS ) - The Pope today received participants in the Twenty-third International Conference of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care. The meeting, which had as its theme this year "Pastoral Care in the Treatment of Sick Children", was held in the Vatican from 13 to 15 November.

The Holy Father indicated how the meeting had thrown light on the difficult conditions experienced by "large numbers of children in vast regions of the earth" and how, despite the fact that medical advances have considerably reduced infant mortality, "much remains to be done in this field. Suffice it to recall", he said, "that four million newborn infants under the age of 26 days die every year".

"Today's challenge is to prevent the emergence of many illnesses once typical of childhood and, overall, to favour the growth, development and maintenance of a correct state of health for all children".

After highlighting the difficulty in achieving "a proper balance between the continuation and abandonment of treatment so as to ensure adequate care for the young patients without giving way to the temptation of experimentalism", the Pope recalled how the focus of all medical activity "must always be the authentic good of the child, considered in his or her dignity as a human being with full rights. Children must, then, always be cared for with love, to help them face suffering and sickness, even before birth, in a way appropriate to their situation.

"Bearing in mind the emotional impact of the sickness the child must undergo, and of the treatment, which at times can be particularly invasive, it is important to ensure constant communication with the relatives", Benedict XVI added.

"The sick, and especially children, have a particular understanding of the language of tenderness and love as expressed though sensitive, patient and generous service, which in believers is animated by the desire to show the same predilection that Jesus showed for children", he said.

The Holy Father highlighted how "all human beings have an inherent value because created in the image of God, to Whose gaze they appear even more precious the weaker they seem in the eyes of man. With how much love, then, must we welcome a child not yet born and already affected with sickness". In this context he also mentioned "the orphaned or abandoned children of poverty and family disintegration, ... the innocent child victims of AIDS or war, ... and children who die through poverty drought or hunger.

"The Church", he added, "does not forget these the smallest of her children and if, on the one hand, she applauds the initiatives of the richer nations to improve the conditions for their development, on the other she feels the compelling duty to call for greater attention to be paid to these brothers and sisters, so that, thanks to our joint solidarity they may look upon life with trust and hope".

Benedict XVI concluded by thanking people "who commit their energies and material resources" to helping children. And he expressed particular appreciation "for our own 'Bambino Gesu' Hospital and the many Catholic social-healthcare associations and institutions which, following the example of Jesus Christ the Good Samaritan and animated by charity, bring human, moral and spiritual support and relief to so many suffering children, who are the objects of God's special love".

AC/SICK CHILDREN/... VIS 081117 (570)

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