While governments and media panic about interest rates, Pope Benedict appeals to the world to do more for those members of the human race who suffer the most – and have no voice
n By Carol Glatz
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – More must be done to remedy the poverty, conflicts and neglect that lead to the suffering or death of millions of children around the world, Pope Benedict XVI said.
The Pope said he hoped the gross imbalances between developed and underdeveloped countries and the rich and poor would be “repaired as soon as possible with resolute action in favour of our smallest brothers and sisters.”
Many children urgently need help, the Pope said on November 15 during a private audience with participants in a Vatican-sponsored conference on “The Pastoral Care in the Treatment of Sick Children.”
Participants in the November 13-15 conference, sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry, discussed ways the Church and Catholic health care workers could address the medical, pastoral and spiritual needs of sick children and their families.
“I am thinking above all about the little ones who have been orphaned or abandoned because of poverty and the breakdown of the family; I’m thinking of the young innocent victims of AIDS or war and the many armed conflicts under way in different parts of the world; I’m thinking of the infants who die as the result of poverty, drought and hunger,” the Pope said, noting that 4 million newborns die within the first month.
“The Church does not forget her smallest children,” he said. what the world’s richest nations are doing to improve living conditions in poorer countries, it also urgently calls for greater attention to children so that they “may look at life with trust and hope,” said the Pope.
A child’s full human dignity must be recognised and respected at every stage of development, even in the womb, he said.
The weaker a human seems, the more precious that person is in the eyes of God, he said.
Pope Benedict said work must continue to be done to prevent childhood diseases by offering proper medical care, improved hygiene and better living conditions.
He also noted the difficulties health care workers and families face in finding the right balance between insisting on and discontinuing therapies.
He said that as medical personnel try to guarantee the appropriate treatment for the needs of their smaller patients they also must resist “succumbing to the temptation of experimentalism” or treating sick children merely as objects for research.
The Pope underlined the emotional trauma illness has on a child’s family and urged medical personnel to use “the language of tenderness and love” when communicating with their patients.
During his address on November 13, Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, head of the health care council, condemned “inappropriate prenatal genetic manipulation,” the lack of health care and using economic arguments to decide whether to cure a child or not.
Another conference participant, Vito Ferri, a psychologist who specialises in treating cancer patients, told Vatican Radio that a child’s debilitating illness hits the whole family like “an existential earthquake.”
Families today already are fragile with little outside support and many often are abandoned to deal with a crisis on their own, he said in a November 14 interview with Vatican Radio.
Families will call into question their faith or plead with God for a miracle, but with proper support, they can begin to make peace with their child’s condition, he said.