VATICAN CITY — The Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers announced Nov. 13 that its upcoming international conference will discuss how health facilities can maintain a Catholic identity in secular societies.
The conference will be “devoted to the study of all aspects of hospitals as privileged spaces, to fulfill both individually and collectively the baptismal mandate” to minister to the sick in imitation of the Good Samaritan, said the council’s president, Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski.
The council’s 27th international conference will take place Nov. 15-17 and will address the theme “The Hospital, a Place of Evangelization, Human and Spiritual Mission.”
The gathering will bring together Church representatives as well as health-care professionals. Up for discussion will be several key issues: respect for life from conception to its natural end, compassionate care with full respect for the sick person’s identity, and palliative care, which focuses on relieving and preventing the suffering of patients.
Representatives from the European Congress of Catholic Doctors as well as Italian Minister of Health Renato Balduzzi will participate. They will address such concerns as maintaining hospitals’ Catholic identity in the secularized Western world and promoting more effective health care in developing countries, where easily preventable diseases such as malaria continue to claim untold lives.
“Health-care workers who are inspired by the faith and Christian morality must be the promoters and pioneers of ethical training to accompany their professional preparation,” noted the council’s secretary, Archbishop Jean-Marie Mupendawatu.
Archbishop Mupendawatu emphasized that the focus of health care should be on the patient as a person, who “reveals the face of God” in his suffering. He ended his remarks by quoting St. Thérèse of Lisieux, who found joy in suffering by offering up her pain to God.
“I have come to the point of suffering no more, because all suffering endured for God has become sweetness,” she wrote.
The meeting will begin with a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica presided over by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.
The conference will conclude with a Nov. 17 Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica and an address by Pope Benedict XVI.
The council was established by Blessed Pope John Paul II to provide a forum to discuss Catholic-related health-care issues. Some 120,000 Catholic health-care facilities operate worldwide, putting into practice Christ’s command in St. Matthew’s Gospel to “Go, preach and heal the sick.”