Pope Francis: Palliative care a sign of closeness to those who suffer

By Christopher Wells, 4 June 2024
Image: Dominik Lange/Unsplash.


Pope Francis addresses a message of hope to participants in the International Interfaith Symposium on Palliative Care, saying we are called to accompany those who suffer and who have difficulty finding reasons for hope.

“Hope is what gives us strength in the face of questions raised by life’s challenges, difficulties, and anxieties, Pope Francis says in a message to participants in an international interfaith symposium on palliative care taking place in Toronto, Canada.

Reflecting on the theme of the gathering – “Towards a Narrative of Hope” – Pope Francis says, “As members of the human family and especially as believers, we are called to accompany, with love and compassion, those who struggle and have difficulty finding reasons for hope.”

Especially those who are suffering from sickness and approaching death, the Pope continues, “need the witness of hope provided by those who care for them and who remain at their side.”

He goes on to explain that palliative care, in attempting to lessen the burden of suffering is a “concrete sign of closeness and solidarity to those are suffering,” and can help those facing the end of life and their families and loved ones “to accept the vulnerability, frailty, and finitude that mark human life in this world.”

Euthanasia, a ‘failure of love’

In his message, which was read on the opening night of the Symposium by the apostolic nuncio to Canada, Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, Pope Francis carefully distinguishes between “authentic palliative care” and euthanasia, “which is never a source of hope or genuine concern for the sick and dying.”

Instead, he says, euthanasia “is a failure of love, a reflection of the throwaway culture,” despite being presented, falsely, as “a form of compassion.” True compassion does not involve ending someone’s life, but being willing to accompany them and share in their physical, emotional, psychological, or spiritual suffering.

As such, it affirms “the fundamental and inviolable dignity of every person, especially the dying” and helps them “to accept the inevitable moment of passage from this life to eternal life.”

The witness of believers

Believers especially can offer a perspective that provides a deeper understanding of “illness, suffering, and death, seeing them as part of the mystery of divine providence [and] a means of sanctification,” the Pope says.

A faith perspective can likewise help those at the end of their lives find comfort in and reconciliation with God and with others, especially family members and loved ones.

Pope Francis goes on to encourage Symposium participants, saying their service is important, “even essential, in helping the sick and dying to realize that they are not isolated or alone, that their lives are not a burden, and that they remain inherently valuable in the eyes of God, and united to us by bonds of communion.”

The Holy Father concludes his message by expressing his hope that the Symposium’s deliberations will help participants “to persevere in love, to give hope to those at the end of life, and to further the building of a more just and fraternal society.”

With thanks to Vatican News and Christopher Wells, where this article originally appeared.

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