Victims of suffering don’t need intermediaries, Pope Francis told medical personnel who work with some of the most ailing people in Africa on Friday, so much as simple “loving attentiveness” to their cries.
“All of you who, in various ways, are part of this healthcare community thus become a sign of the heart of Jesus, so that no one will think that his or her cry has gone unheard,” Francis said during a visit to a medical center on the outskirts of Maputo, the capital of Mozambique.
Doctors, nurses and other staff at the Zimpeto Center are “a sign of sharing with those in need, and you enable them to sense the active presence of a brother or a sister,” the pope said.
The pontiff also praised the center’s efforts to reduce its ecological footprint, including the use of sustainable methods of energy and gathering and storing water supplies. This concern with environmental impact, Francis said, is a “virtuous mode” and an example to be followed in light of the “urgent situation created by the deterioration of our planet.”
Listening to the cry of the most vulnerable, Francis says, “puts us in contact with another part of our vulnerable world,” meaning the earth herself, “burdened and laid waste.” The planet too, he argued, has been abandoned and maltreated, and she “groans in travail.”
Zimpeto Center, specializing in the treatment of women and children with HIV/Aids, was inaugurated in 2018 in the presence of President Filipe Nyusi and the then-papal representative in Mozambique, Archbishop Edgar Pena Parra, today effectively the pope’s Chief of Staff as the substitute in the Vatican’s Secretary of State.
During his visit, Francis unveiled a plaque marking the occasion, saw a dance prepared by young children, and greeted some 20 patients before heading privately to visit two of the center’s rooms.
Francis said the situation at the center resembles the Gospel story of the Good Samaritan, and the patients “with despair and anguish, are like the man lying on the side of the road,” while those working in the center have refused to continue on their way like the Levite or the priest in the parable.
Praising the employees, he said they have “heeded the silent, almost inaudible, cry of countless women, so many of them living in shame, marginalized and judged by all.”
In the Hospital Zimpeto, Francis said, God lives among those suffering from cancer or tuberculosis, as well as hundreds of malnourished people, especially children and youth.
The hospital also features a DREAM center for people with HIV/Aids. The “Disease Relief through Excellent and Advanced Means” project was created by the lay Community of Sant’Egidio in 2002 to help people with the virus as well as malnutrition in Africa.
“This centre shows us that there are always people ready to stop and show compassion, who do not yield to the temptation to say, ‘There is nothing to be done’ or ‘It’s impossible to fight this scourge’,” Francis said.
An estimated 100,000 people have been helped through the DREAM project, and as Francis said, are today able to smile because they were cured with dignity in their dignity.
“Having emerged from the nightmare of suffering, and without concealing their condition, they are now a sign of hope for many persons,” he said. “Their willingness to dream can serve as an inspiration to many people lying on the wayside who need a welcoming hand.”
As for those who help those in need, Francis said, they will be repaid by the Lord when he returns. Knowing this, he said, should fill the workers and volunteers with joy.
As the pope noted, thanks to “telemedicine” the hospital and the DREAM project are connected to over five thousand doctors, nurses and technicians who help in the formation of local operators.
The DREAM Center gave Pope Francis a crosier made from trees uprooted during Cyclone Idai in Beira, that killed hundreds in March of this year. It is adorned with small metal crosses, that were made from what was left of the roof of an elderly woman’s home.
After the visit to the hospital, Francis was scheduled to celebrate Mass in the National Zimpeto Stadium, with a capacity for some 42,000 people. Afterwards, he heads to the airport to begin the second leg of his Sept. 4-10 African tour in Madagascar.