In his audience with surgeons who treat cancer patients, Pope Francis encouraged the physicians to view the person as an integral whole of body and soul. On April 12, the Holy Father spoke of the need for “comprehensive care that considers the whole person and unites also human, psychological and social support, spiritual accompaniment, and support for the family of the sick person to medical care.” His audience in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace with participants in a conference of the Society of Italian Oncology Surgeons focused on the importance of integral care. While “scientific research has multiplied the possibilities of prevention and healing,” it is important to speak of “full health” which includes a vision of the “human person, created in the image of God, and who is unity of body and spirit,” explained the pontiff. He went on to note that “these two elements cannot be separated, because the person is one.” When a man or woman undergoes suffering, it “not only affects the bodily dimension” of the person, but the person “in his totality,” and therefore he or she must receive care in an integrated manner. Doctors commit to a “high value” in searching for cures, “in order to respond to the expectations and hopes of many patients around the world,” the Pope acknowledged. Yet it is a “fraternal sharing with the sick” that “opens us to the true beauty of human life, which includes even its fragility, so that we can recognize the dignity and worth of every human being, in whatever condition he is found, from conception to death.” Moreover, as the Church begins to celebrate Holy Week, the recollection of the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ reminds us that “the suffering of humanity is taken up all the way and redeemed by God. By God-Love,” said the pontiff. He then referenced the famous Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s “anguished query,” that is, “why do children suffer?” “Only Christ can give meaning to this ‘scandal,’” the Holy Father insisted. “Only Christ gives meaning to the scandal of innocent suffering.” “You too can look to Him, crucified and resurrected, in your daily work.” Pope Francis had begun his brief address by welcoming the surgeons and praying for the men and women under their care. He concluded by asking that Mary help sustain the doctors in “their work of research and action.” “At the feet of Jesus’s Cross we also meet Our Lady of Sorrows. She is the Mother of all humanity, and she is always close to her sick and suffering children. If our faith wavers, hers does not,” he explained. “I pray the Lord to bless you all.”
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