Tuesday, November 11, 2008


VATICAN CITY, 11 NOV 2008 (VIS) - In the Holy See Press Office this morning, a press conference was held to present the Twenty-third International Conference of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care, which has as its theme this year: "Pastoral Care in the Treatment of Sick Children". The meeting is due to be held in the Vatican from 13 to 15 November.

Participating in today's event were Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, Bishop Jose L. Redrado O.H. and Fr. Felice Ruffini M.I, respectively president, secretary and under secretary of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care; Bruna Costacurta, professor of biblical exegesis in the faculty of theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, and Alberto G. Ugazio, co-ordinator of the department of paediatric medicine at Rome's "Bambino Gesu" Hospital.

In his remarks, Cardinal Lozano Barragan indicated that "in the last decade more than two million children have been killed in the course of armed conflict, six million have been left handicapped, tens of thousands mutilated by antipersonnel mines and 300,000 recruited as child soldiers. More than 4,300,000 children have died of AIDS.

"Poverty", he added, "remains the principal cause of childhood sickness. One billion two hundred thousand people live with less than a dollar a day. Even in the richest countries, one child in six lives under the poverty line. ... Two hundred and fifty million children under 15 work, including some 60 million who do so in dangerous conditions", while "many children and adolescents are left to their own devices. ... There are no controls on television programmes or on the Internet where they navigate without any kind of moral guidance. The sex trade, paedophilia, violence in schools, crimes, organised bands, etc., are all growing phenomena. ... Many families have relinquished their duty to educate" their children and "very often school education is reduced to mere information, with authentic formation being abandoned".

Having provided these statistics, the cardinal turned to focus on the forthcoming meeting's theme of caring for sick children. "In the first part of the conference, entitled 'Situation'", he said, "we will consider the reality and origin of childhood diseases. We will begin with the history of treating sick children in the world, the demographics of the infant population and their mortality rates. We will then study the principal sicknesses to which children are exposed before evaluating whether globalisation represents an opportunity or a risk for the sick. ... We will also examine the question of lifestyle and diet. ... As concerns the political side of the question, we will study .... legislation and healthcare systems. ... In its ecological aspects we will consider initiatives undertaken by the World Health Organisation".

In the second part of the conference, entitled "Reflection", participants will analyse "what Holy Scripture and the Fathers of the Church have to tell us about the cure of children, examining what those cures were over the course of Church history and the witness of the saints who consecrated their lives to caring for sick children. ... We will conclude our reflection with a dialogue on the great religions: Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism", said the cardinal.

"The third part of the conference is dedicated to 'Action'", Cardinal Lozano Barragan went on. "What kind of catechesis and formation in the faith do we need in order to face this serious problem? How must we proceed in sacramental terms towards these children? How can we use the psychological sciences in this form of treatment?. ... We will examine research into medicines, nutrition and lifestyle. ... From a socio-political standpoint, we will highlight the role that the social communications media, and national and international healthcare systems must have, ... as well as the problem of migration. ... At a personal level, we will ask ourselves about the role of the diocese, of the parish, of religious orders and congregations, and of volunteers".

The cardinal concluded by recalling that the conference will be attended "by 41 specialists from various countries, all of them highly qualified in their specific fields".


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