Pope Francis on Thursday called lack of access to basic health care a “social virus” and said that the antidote is a “culture of fraternity.”
In a video message ahead of the 30th World Day of the Sick, observed every year on Feb. 11, Pope Francis recalled a lesson of the COVID-19 pandemic, that illness is “a global and not a merely individual phenomenon.”
“It invites us to reflect on other types of ‘pathologies’ that threaten humanity and the world,” he said on Feb. 10. He highlighted individualism and indifference toward others, which he said were “forms of selfishness that unfortunately end up being amplified in the society of consumerist wellbeing and economic liberalism.”
“The consequent inequalities,” he continued, “are found even in the field of health care, where some enjoy so-called ‘excellence’ and many others struggle to access basic health care.”
“The antidote is the culture of fraternity, based on the awareness that we are all equal as human persons, all equal as children of one God. On this basis, it will be possible to have effective treatments for everyone. But if we are not convinced that we are all equal, this will not work,” he said.
Pope Francis’ video message was sent to participants in a webinar organized by the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development.
The topic of the online event was “World Day of the Sick: Meaning, Goals, and Challenges.”
“My thoughts turn with gratitude to all those who, in the Church and society, lovingly stay beside those who suffer,” Pope Francis said, pointing out the many contributions the Catholic Church has made to health care through hospitals, clinics, dispensaries, and missionaries and religious congregations that care for the sick.
“The Church, following Jesus, the Good Samaritan of humanity, has always done her utmost for those who suffer, dedicating great resources, both personal and economic, to the sick,” he said.
“This vocation and mission for integral human care must also renew charisms in the health care field today,” he added, “so that there is no lack of closeness to the suffering.”
Quoting his message for the 2021 World Day of the Sick, he said: “Sickness raises the question of life’s meaning, which we bring before God in faith. In seeking a new and deeper direction in our lives, we may not find an immediate answer.”
Pope Francis also referenced St. Pope John Paul II’s 1984 apostolic letter Salvifici doloris, on the Christian meaning of human suffering.
“St. John Paul II indicated, beginning with his own personal experience, the path of this quest,” Francis said. “It is not a matter of turning in on oneself, but on the contrary, of opening up to a greater love: ‘If one becomes a sharer in the sufferings of Christ, this happens because Christ has opened his suffering to man, because he himself in his redemptive suffering has become, in a certain sense, a sharer in all human sufferings. Man, discovering through faith the redemptive suffering of Christ, also discovers in it his own sufferings; he rediscovers them, through faith, enriched with a new content and a new meaning.’”