Pope Francis Talks to Cancer League About Power of Redemptive Suffering

'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 new meaning,' said Pope Francis .

Pope Francis meets members of the Italian League for the Fight against Cancer at the Vatican’s Clementine Hall, March 4, 2022.
Pope Francis meets members of the Italian League for the Fight against Cancer at the Vatican’s Clementine Hall, March 4, 2022. (photo: National Catholic Register / Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis met with a cancer association at the Vatican on Friday and shared a reflection on how there is power and meaning in human suffering when it is united to Christ.

“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,” Pope Francis said, quoting Pope St. John Paul II. 

“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 new meaning.”

The Pope met with members of the Italian League for the Fight against Cancer on March 4 and pointed the group to Pope St. John Paul II’s apostolic letter on redemptive suffering, Salvifici doloris

Redemptive suffering, according to the "Catechism of the Catholic Church", means that “by his passion and death on the cross Christ has given a new meaning to suffering.”

Suffering “can henceforth configure us to him and unite us with his redemptive Passion,” it says in paragraph 1505.

In his reflection, Pope Francis also condemned euthanasia, saying that death must not be administered. 

“Life is a right, not death, which must be welcomed, not administered. And this ethical principle concerns everyone: everyone, not just Christians or believers, everyone,” Pope Francis said.

“Together we can curb this culture that seeks to affirm an ‘economic’ model of man, who is only as good as his production and consumption. On the other hand, even in suffering and illness we are fully men and women, without diminishment, recognizing ourselves in that unified psycho-physical-spiritual totality that is typical only of the human person.”

Pope Francis also highlighted the example of a patron saint of cancer patients, St. Leopold Mandić, a sickly Croatian Capuchin friar who would spend up to 15 hours a day hearing confessions. 

In 1942, St. Leopold fainted while preparing for Mass. He was reportedly weak from spending the previous day hearing nonstop confessions and the entire night in prayer. He died while singing the final words of the Salve Regina. 

The saint had suffered from esophagus cancer, which is believed to be the cause of his death.

During the Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis requested that the relics of St. Leopold be brought to Rome.

“May you be accompanied from heaven by St. Leopold Mandić — a great man, the patron saint of cancer patients,” Pope Francis told the cancer association.

“A patron also of ‘spiritual cancer,’ because he confessed and forgave all. A great and merciful man. We need such priests today.”

“With all my heart I bless you, all our members, and your families. And I ask you please not to forget to pray for me, as I am in need. Thank you!”

Cardinal-elect Víctor Manuel Fernández was appointed by Pope Francis on July 1, 2023, to become the next prefect for the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith.

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