The Catholic Church on Friday marks the 30th World Day of the Sick, a celebration instituted in 1992 by Pope John Paul II.
This year’s motto is “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful,” a message from the Bible, the Vatican announced.
In his special message, Pope Francis said that “Patients are always more important than their diseases, and for this reason, no therapeutic approach can prescind from listening to the patient, his or her history, anxieties and fears.”
“Even when healing is not possible, care can always be given,” the pope added. “It is always possible to console, it is always possible to make people sense a closeness that is more interested in the person than in his or her pathology.”
'Ill person is a human being'
Echoing these words, Polish Catholic bishop Romuald Kamiński told the state PAP news agency that World Day of the Sick aims to make all healthcare institutions aware of the importance of sick people.
“It’s about taking care of them, and not just in the medical sense, it’s about the doctors recognising, amid all the medical procedures, that the ill person is a human being,” said Kamiński, who is the Polish Catholic Church’s spokesman on healthcare issues.
He added that medical procedures may allow healthcare workers “to avoid making the effort to look closely at the patient and understand them.”
“Some members of the medical staff may withdraw from relations with patients, citing the need to comply with procedures,” Kamiński cautioned.
He added that sick people need hope and opportunities “to climb out of the spiral of negative thinking.”
In another interview, Kamiński told public broadcaster Polish Radio’s IAR news agency that papal messages for World Day of the Sick, including this year’s message from Pope Francis, seek to “lift the spirits of sick people.”
At the same time, they show doctors and nurses “the importance of their contribution” towards the success of therapy, he said.
He added that World Day of the Sick "is also a reminder of the Church’s teachings on the meaning of suffering."
Meanwhile, Fr. Arkadiusz Zawistowski, the Polish Catholic Church’s representative for the healthcare system, told the media that during the COVID-19 pandemic, priests have often been “the only people with whom sick persons can talk, and so for many, we bring hope.”
Despite all the COVID-19 restrictions, priests in Poland have been able “to meet briefly with patients, talk and pray with them and administer the Holy Sacraments,” Zawistowski said.
Source: IAR, PAP, vatican.va