By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Christians are called to offer medical care to the sick in imitation of Jesus, who chose physical healings as the way to demonstrate “the nearness of God and his merciful love,” Pope Benedict XVI said.
The dignity of the human person, who has a right to health and medical assistance, “is confirmed and strengthened by the commandment of love, the center of the Christian message,” the pope told members of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry.
Pope Benedict met the members March 22 during their plenary assembly at the Vatican.
The pope said Catholic health care is an “exquisitely evangelical” field of work and ministry because it is modeled on the ministry of Jesus.
“When he passed through the villages of Palestine preaching the good news of the kingdom of God, his preaching always was accompanied by the signs he worked for the sick, healing all those who were prisoners of every kind of illness and infirmity,” the pope said.
Restoring health and wholeness “was the sign chosen by Christ to demonstrate the nearness of God and his merciful love that heals the spirit, the soul and the body,” the pope said.
The obligation to care for the sick is a “natural ethical principle,” which is strengthened by the Gospel commandment to love one another, the pope said.
The esteem and trust the church has for medical professionals “are proportionate to the certainty that these official defenders of life would never despise human life” and would attempt everything possible to heal, cure and preserve the life of each patient, he said.
“The commitment of care must extend to every human being with the intent of covering his or her entire existence,” he said.
Christian health care workers, the pope said, must be aware of “the very close and indissoluble tie between the quality of their professional service and the virtue of charity to which Christ calls them. It is precisely in carrying out their work well that they witness to the love of God.”
Pope Benedict encouraged Catholic chaplains and medical workers to ensure that the Eucharist, “the sacrament of charity” as his new apostolic exhortation describes it, has a central place in the spiritual life of both patients and their caregivers.