Pastoral care of the sick - CELAM Aparecida
Excerpt from the concluding text of the 5 th General Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Episcopate in Aparecida in May 2007.
- The Church has made an option for life. That option inevitably pushes us toward the furthest limits of existence: being born and dying, the child and the old person, the healthy person and the ill. St. Irenaeus tells us that “the glory of God is the living human being,” even one who is weak, the recently conceived, the one worn out by the years and the sick person. Christ invited his apostles to preach the Kingdom of God and heal the sick, who are true cathedrals of encounter with the Lord Jesus.
- This twofold command has been fulfilled since the beginning of evangelization. The purpose of combating disease is to achieve physical, psychological, social, and spiritual harmony in order to carry out the mission received. The ministry of health care is the response to the great questions of life, such as suffering and death, in the light of the Lord’s death and resurrection.
- Health is a topic that involves major forces in the world, but those forces do not provide a purpose that transcends it. In contemporary culture, there is no place for death, and in the face of its reality, efforts are made to conceal it. Opening it up to its spiritual and transcendent dimension, healthcare ministry becomes proclamation of the Lord’s death and resurrection, the only true health. In the sacramental economy of the love of Christ, it unifies the love of many “good Samaritans,” priests, deacons, nuns, lay people and health professionals. The 32,116 Catholic institutions devoted to healthcare ministry in Latin America represent a resource for evangelization that should be utilized.
- In visits to the sick in health facilities, in silently being with the sick person, kind treatment, sensitive care for the requirements of the disease, the motherhood of the church is expressed through the professionals and volunteers, disciples of the Lord. The church enfolds them with its kindness, strengthens the heart, and for the dying, accompanies them in the final passage. The sick person lovingly receives the Word, forgiveness, the sacrament of Anointing, and gestures of charity from brothers and sisters. Human suffering is a special experience of the Lord’s cross and resurrection.
- Hence, healthcare ministry, which includes different fields of care, should be fostered in the particular churches. We regard it as extremely important to encourage a ministry to people living with HIV-AIDS, in its broader context and in its pastoral meanings. It should promote accompanying people with understanding and mercy, and defending the rights of persons who are infected, make information available, and promote education and prevention with ethical criteria, primarily among the younger generations, so as to awaken the consciousness of everyone to contain this pandemic. At this Fifth General Conference, we ask governments to provide free universal access to AIDS drugs and the proper dosages.
Aparecida, 13‐31 mai 2007
Source : CELAM