Friday, February 2, 2024
VATICAN CITY | The Pope Video for February, the month in which the Church celebrates the World Day of the Sick, contains an appeal that the terminally ill “will always receive the necessary medical and human care and assistance.”
“Cure if it is possible; always take care”, Pope Francis affirms, citing John Paul II in the video message sent through the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network. The Pope also states that families play a “decisive role” and that they “should not be left alone.”
On Feb. 11, the liturgical memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, the Church observes the World Day of the Sick, which was established in 1992 by John Paul II.
In this month's video, Pope Francis explains that “when some people talk about terminal illnesses, there are two words they often confuse: incurable and un-carable. But they are not the same.”
To care and to cure
In the video, we see: a couple from behind, contemplating the sea, the young man embracing the young woman who has lost her hair due to chemotherapy; a girl in a hospital room hugging her grandfather; a man at his father’s bedside, with a Bible in his lap and a Rosary in his hands; a patient who can no longer walk being assisted by a nurse in a garden; a physician explaining to a family the difficult road they will need to take with their loved one.
Depending on how they are interpreted, the images from The Pope Video for February depict a series of failures or successes: failures, if the only acceptable outcome is a cure; successes, if the objective is the care of the patient. To cure and to care for seem to be synonymous, but they are not. Pope Francis explains this clearly: even when little chance for a cure exists, “every sick person has the right to medical, psychological, spiritual and human assistance.”
And he continues, “Healing is not always possible, but we can always care for the sick person, caress them.”
The sick, families and palliative care
In our throw-away culture, there is no longer a place for the terminally ill. And it is not a coincidence that, in the last decades, the temptation to euthanasia has been gaining ground in many countries. Instead, Pope Francis invites us to look on the sick person lovingly – to understand, for example, that physical contact can give so much even to those who are no longer able to speak and who no longer seem to recognize their own relatives anymore – and to assist them in the best way possible as long as they need it.
It is not a question about unnecessarily prolonging suffering. Rather, the Pope insists on the importance of palliative care and the role of the family who, as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith writes in the letter Samaritanus bonus of 2020, “remains at the bedside of the sick to bear witness to their unique and unrepeatable value.”
Regarding palliative care, Pope Francis reiterates that it “guarantees the patient not only medical attention, but also human assistance and closeness.”
Meanwhile, when speaking about the role of the family, he reminds us that “they should not be left alone in these difficult moments,” and that “their role is decisive and they need access to adequate means so as to provide appropriate physical, spiritual and social support.”
This is why the Pope then concludes by asking for prayers and a commitment from everyone so that “the terminally ill and their families always receive the necessary medical and human care and assistance.”