Healing and Care

Feb 21, 2024 | Blog Articles

Healing and caring are not always the same thing: even when healing is not possible, caring is a requirement. 

A couple, from behind, look at the sea: the boy embraces the girl, left without hair due to chemotherapy. A little girl is on her grandfather’s bed in the hospital, holding him close. A man is at his father’s bedside, with a Bible on his lap and a rosary in his hands. A nurse accompanies the patient, who can no longer walk, into the garden. A doctor explains to a family the difficult path that, from now on, they will have to face together with their loved one.

Depending on how we look at them, the images in the February Pope Video tell us about a series of failures or successes: failures, if the only acceptable outcome is healing; successes, however, if the objective is care. Healing and caring seem synonymous, but they are not. Pope Francis – in the message that accompanies his prayer intention this month for the terminally ill – explains it clearly, quoting a famous phrase by John Paul II: “If healing is not always possible, care is. And even when there is little possibility of recovery, ‘all patients have the right to medical, psychological, spiritual and human accompaniment.’”

There is no place for the terminally ill in our throwaway culture. And it is no coincidence that, in recent decades, the temptation of euthanasia has been increasingly gaining ground in many countries. Pope Francis invites us instead to look at the sick person with love – to understand, for example, that physical contact can give a lot even to those who are no longer able to speak and no longer seem to recognize their family members – and to accompany them in the best possible way for as long as he needs.

It is not a question of needlessly prolonging suffering: on the contrary, the Pope insists on the importance of palliative care and that of the family, which – as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith wrote in 2020, in the letter Samaritanus bonus – “stands by to the patient and testifies to his unique and unrepeatable value.” And families, Pope Francis concludes in his prayer intention, should not be left alone: they too, in fact, need medical and human accompaniment.

Andrea Sarubbi

Coordinator of the Pope’s Video

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