Healing needs the restoration of human dignity, pope tells Catholic medicos

Pope Francis has told staff from four Thai Catholic hospitals that their work goes beyond medical practice and needs to include mercy — a trait born of love and respect for human dignity.

Pope Francis addressed a large gathering of staff from the Catholic hospitals when he visited St. Louis Hospital in Bangkok on Nov. 21, a day after he landed in the Buddhist majority country.

“It is precisely in the exercise of charity that we Christians are called not only to demonstrate that we are missionary disciples, but also to take stock of our own fidelity, and that of our institutions, to the demands of that of discipleship,” Pope Francis said.

The pope went on to tell the staff that they’re missionary disciples in the field of health care.

“For you open your hearts to a ‘mystical fraternity, a contemplative fraternity, capable of seeing the sacred grandeur of our neighbor, of finding God in every human being, of tolerating the nuisances of life in common by clinging to the love of God, of opening the hearts to the divine love and seeking happiness of others, just as the heavenly Father does’,” the pope said quoting his Evangeli Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) an apostolic exhortation released in 2013.

“Seen in this way, you carry out one of the greatest works of mercy, for your commitment to healthcare goes far beyond the simple and praiseworthy practice of medicine,” Pope Francis said.

“This is not only a matter of procedures and programs; rather, it has to do with our readiness to embrace whatever each new day sets before us,” he said.

“It’s about welcoming and embracing human life as it arrives at the hospital’s emergency room, needing to be treated with the merciful care born of love and respect for the dignity of each human person,” he said.

“The healing process should rightly be seen as a powerful anointing capable of restoring human dignity in every situation, a gaze that grants dignity and support.”

A large outside TV screen showing Pope Francis giving an address to medical staff at St. Louis Hospital in Bangkok on Nov. 21. (Photo by Pinyo Tawinwat/LICAS News)

During his visit to the hospital the pope blessed about 40 sick and disabled people at the hospital who came to see him. He also met with students from St. Louis College.

St. Louis Hospital was the first Catholic hospital established in Thailand. It was built in 1868 during the reign of King Chulachomklaochaoyuhua by Bishop Jean-Louis Vey, the 14th vicar apostolic of Mission to Siam.

The hospital was given to the care of the Sisters of St. Paul de Chatre who extended it to be a training center for nursing assistants and then include the college in 1985.

Pope Francis is the first pontiff in nearly four decades to visit Thailand where the nearly 400,000-strong Catholic community makes up a little more than 0.5 percent of the population.

The last visit from a pontiff came in 1984 by Pope St. John Paul II.

He flies out for Japan on Nov. 23.

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