A press conference was held on Monday 6 February in the Vatican Press Office to present the 25th World Day of the Sick, to be held in Lourdes, France on 11 February, the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. The conference also provided the opportunity to present the New Charter for Healthcare Workers.
The speakers were Msgr. Jean-Marie Mate Musivi Mupendawatu, secretary of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development; Alessandro de Franciscis, president of the Bureau des Constatations Médicales de Lourdes and the Association Médicale Internationale de Lourdes (AMIL); and Antonio Gioacchino Spagnolo, professor of bioethics and director of the Institute of Bioethics and Medical Humanities in the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Rome.
Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, was scheduled to attend but was unable to do so. Msgr. Mupendawatu therefore read his contribution, explaining that the World Day of the Sick was instituted by Saint John Paul II in 1992 and, on this twenty-fifth anniversary, it will be celebrated in an extraordinary way, at Pope Francis’ behest. Among those who will attend the event in Lourdes on 11 February will be Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, who will be present as papal legate, and will celebrate the solemn Holy Mass on the anniversary of the first apparition of the Virgin to Bernadette Soubirous.
The Cardinal also recalled the recently deceased Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the then-Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care, to whom we owe the New Charter for Healthcare Workers.
The Charter is a revision and updating of the Charter for Healthcare Workers, the theological, moral and medical “vademecum” that resulted from the intuition of the first president of the Council, Cardinal Fiorenzo Angelini, which was translated in nineteen languages and became for twenty years a basic text for healthcare workers.
Msgr. Musivi Mupendawatu went on to underline that the Holy Father’s Message for this year’s World Day of the Sick, the theme of which is “Amazement at what God has accomplished: ‘The Almighty has done great things for me…’” (Luke 1:49), invites us to “imitate the journey of St. Bernadette to contemplate in Mary, the Immaculate, and then her life of silence and meditation”. With reference to the New Charter for Healthcare Workers, he affirmed that “from the doctrinal point of view, it reaffirms the sacredness of life and its indispensability inasmuch as it is a gift from God”.
Professor Spagnolo then gave an extensive overview of the document. He said, “The conquests of biomedical research and the new social and healthcare realities that have come to pass since 1994, as well as the pronouncements of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church that have been emanated in the ambit of life and health sciences (those of the Pontiffs John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, and the documents of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Pontifical Academy for Life), have made it necessary to revise and update the Charter for Healthcare Workers”, he explained.
“The Charter has however kept its original structure as a tool in a serious preparation and continuing formation of healthcare workers at an ethical level, to maintain the necessary professional competence and their vocation as ministers of life”.
The Charter seeks to support the ethical loyalty of the healthcare worker, in the choices and behaviour in which this service to life takes its form, and this loyalty is outlined following the stages of human existence – generating, living, dying – as moments of ethical and pastoral reflection.
“Certainly, the Charter cannot be exhaustive with regard to all the problems and issues that arise in the context of health and sickness”, Professor Spagnolo concluded, “but it has been produced in order to offer the clearest guidelines possible for the ethical problems that must be faced in the world of health in general, in harmony with the teachings of Christ, and with the Church’s Magisterium”.