and texts
of the Congress




+ Angelo Cardinal SODANO, Secretary of State.
To His Most Reverend Excellency, Msgr. Javier Lozano Barragán,
President of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care,
5 August 2002

Most Reverend Excellency,

The Holy Father has learnt with great pleasure that the International Federation of Associations of Catholic Doctors will celebrate its Twenty-first World Congress in Seoul, South Korea, from 1 to 4 September 2002. This important appointment, which this year will witness the meeting of the representatives of the fifty-four national associations of Catholic doctors that are affiliated to the FIAMC, will offer medical doctors a propitious opportunity for study and the exchange of thoughts and experiences on different questions and issues that ask for our reflection in the field of medical ethics and pastoral care in health.
From the point of view of its contemporary relevance, the subject chosen is worthy of appreciation. Indeed, today, with the advent of experimental medicine, the identity of the individual health care worker is relegated to the individual and private sphere. Hence the need and urgency for the medical doctor in general, and the Catholic medical doctor in particular, to regain to the full his or her personal identity as a person who loves life, which should be loved and defended always and in every context.
On this point, referring to the specific identity and responsibility of health care workers, the Holy Father writes: 'In today's cultural and social context, in which science and the practice of medicine risk losing sight of their inherent ethical dimension, health-care professionals can be strongly tempted to become manipulators of life, or even agents of death. In the face of this temptation their responsibility today is greatly increased. Its deepest inspiration and strongest support lie in the intrinsic and undeniable ethical dimension of the health-care profession, something already recognized by the ancient and still relevant Hippocratic Oath, which requires every doctor to commit himself to absolute respect for human life and its sacredness (Evangelium vitae, 89).
In addition to addressing questions that have an obvious bioethical and pastoral relevance connected with the value of life &endash; stem cell therapies, forms of pain-killing treatment, AIDS, forms of dementia, the ethical training of future medical doctors, natural methods &endash; the Seoul Congress will also award - out of acknowledgement and esteem for the Billingses - the FIAMC prize for 2002, seeking thereby to emphasise their important contribution to centres for the application of natural methods for the regulation of fertility, centres that are still 'a valuable help to responsible parenthood, in which all individuals, and in the first place the child, are recognized and respected in their own right, and where every decision is guided by the ideal of the sincere gift of self' (ibid., 88).
The moment has now come when Catholic medical doctors are called to special gospel-based witness in the world of suffering and health. The good intentions and the wise reflections of the Congress must be followed by concrete actions of charity and solidarity taking Jesus, the Good Samaritan, who during his earthly life dedicated himself to healing men and women in the body and the spirit, as an example.
The Holy Father invites all those taking part in this Congress to return to their respective countries more convinced of their high mission at the service of health and the life of man from its beginning to its natural end. Their task is to do what is possible for the promotion of the culture of life, achieving an incisive presence in the debates that permeate the medical profession, with faithful adherence to the Magisterium of the Church. In this way, the Congress of Seoul will go down in history not as one of so many study meetings, but as a Congress in which was matured an operational commitment to coherent gospel-based witness at the service of those who suffer.
In the face of a secularised world, which with the pretext of 'understanding' and 'compassion' in relation to man tends to conceal or to weaken moral truth, the Holy Father invites Catholic medical doctors to repropose such truth 'in its most profound meaning as an outpouring of God's eternal Wisdom, which we have received from Christ, and as a service to man, to the growth of his freedom, and to the attainment of his happiness' (Veritatis splendor, 95).
The hospital context, in which the Catholic medical doctor exercises his profession-mission, needs to be renewed in the light of the Gospel of suffering and life, so that through the actions and daily work of the medical doctor the compassion and the mercy of Christ are always alive and operating in that context. On this point John Paul II writes: 'They {health care institutions} should not merely be institutions where care is provided for the sick or dying. Above all they should be places where suffering, pain and death are acknowledged and understood in their human and specifically Christian meaning, This must be especially evident and effective in institutes staffed by Religious or in any way connected with the Church' (Evangelium vitae, 88).
The Holy Father encourages Catholic medical doctors to pursue their solidarity-inspired commitment with new impetus, basing themselves on the wise social doctrine of the Church. They should not tire of sharing their learning and medical culture with those Churches which are in need, and they should always seek to promote within the FIAMC the universal diffusion of the good of 'health'. In this way, Catholic medical doctors will make a notable contribution to the pertinent and topical debate on values, on which the phenomenon of globalisation must be based if it does not want to lose sight of its purpose &endash; man.
The Supreme Pontiff urges Catholic medical doctors, following the example of the martyrs who founded the Korean Church, to be courageous and credible witnesses to Christ, the physician of the body and the soul, recognising in sick people his suffering face. He can illuminate and transfigure their gaze and their profession, revealing his face of light and joy, the pledge of hope for those who believe in him.
In hoping and wishing those taking part in the twenty-first FIAMC Congress fruitful work, the Holy Father wishes to express to you, Most Reverend Excellency, and the other high officeholders of the FIAMC, his keenly-felt and grateful appreciation of the commitment expended in this form of apostolate. With these feelings, he sends you, and to those who work with you and to all those taking part in the Congress, a special Apostolic Blessing, a pledge of abundant outpourings of heavenly favours.
I take this opportunity to confirm my feelings of high regard,
Yours most devoted in the Lord,
+ Angelo Cardinal Sodano, Secretary of State.