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Pope to physicians: never lose sight of the spiritual dimension of man


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday received in audience participants in a Congress for Surgeons who work with oncological patients.

In his address, he quoted Blessed John Paul II pointing out that when caring for the sick it is essential not to lose sight of the human person, created in the image of God and united in body and spirit.

Please find below Vatican Radio’s translation of the Pope’s address:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I extend my welcome to all of you who are participating in the Congress organized by the Italian Society of Oncological Surgery, promoted by the “La Sapienza” University of Rome and by the “Sant’Andrea Hospital”. In welcoming you, my thoughts go to all the men and women that you care for, and I pray for them.

Scientific research has multiplied the possibilities of prevention and healing, it has allowed for the discovery of therapies that are indicated in caring for a variety of pathologies. This is your work as well: a highly valuable commitment that aims to respond to the expectations and the hopes of many ill people across the world.

But in order to be able to speak of full health it is necessary to not lose sight of the human person, created in the image of God, and who is unity of body and spirit. The Greeks were more precise: body, soul and spirit. Man is that unity. It is possible to distinguish these two elements but not to separate them, because the human person is one. So, disease, the experience of pain and suffering, do not regard solely the corporal dimension, but man in his totality. From this stems the need for integral care, that considers the person in his entirety, and that unites medical care – “technical care” – a human, psychological and social support, because the physician must care for all: the human body, with its psychological, social and spiritual dimension; as well as the spiritual accompaniment and support for the family members of the sick person. This means that it is indispensable that medical operators be “led by an integrally human view of illness and who as a result are able to affect a fully human approach to the sick parson” (John Paul II, Motu Proprio Dolentium hominum, 11 February 1985).

Brotherly sharing with the sick opens us to the true beauty of human life, including its fragility, helping us to recognize the dignity and the value of every human being, in whatever condition he or she may find himself, from conception to death.

Dear friends, Holy Week begins tomorrow. It culminates in the Triduum of the Passion, the Death and the Resurrection of Jesus. Here He takes on human suffering in its totality, which is then redeemed by God. By God-Love. Only Christ gives meaning to the scandal of innocent suffering. So many times Dostoyevsky’s anguished query comes to mind: why do children suffer? Only Christ can give meaning to this “scandal”. You too can look to Him, crucified and resurrected, in your daily work. And at the feet of Jesus’s Cross we also meet Our Lady of Sorrows. She is the Mother of all humanity, and she is always close to her sick and suffering children. If our faith wavers, hers does not. May Mary support you in your commitment towards research and work. I pray the Lord to bless you all. Thank you.