This year we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of FIAMC. It was at the 11th International Congress held in Manila in 1966 that Dr Mariano Alimurung who was elected the first President of the newly reconstituted international federation, FIAMC. However we can trace the roots of FIAMC back to 1864, when a French doctor, Dr Le Bele heeding the call of Pope Leo XIII formed the guild of Catholic doctors which eventually led to the formation of FIAMC recognised by the Holy see as the only international organisation of Catholic physicians.

There is no doubt about the contributions of the other regional organisations especially the European and North American federations. I have wondered how the Asian federation can contribute to the growth of the international family with most of the national guilds being relatively small in size compared to the national guilds in predominantly Catholic countries. On reflection, I realised that it is the fact that Catholics are a very small minority in most Asian countries except Philippines that is our greatest strength. For example in Japan where Catholics constitute only 0.35% of the population, the influence of the Japan Catholic Medical Associations has had significant impact on the development of bioethics and healthcare policies. It is their unshakeable faith that lead to thousands of Catholics martyrs in Korea and Japan embracing death with joy during periods of persecution.

I believe that it is this indomitable spirit to evangelise that is the strength of the Asian Federation which could help revitalise FIAMC. In an era of increasing secularization, the “Culture of Death” which our beloved St John Paul II prophesied will afflict modern society is gathering momentum.  The role of Catholic Doctors in defeating the well-organized well-funded anti-life forces is of paramount importance. At this moment, there is a campaign in the United Nations trying to force the Church to reverse its teachings on contraception. This devious campaign is being spearheaded by a purportedly Catholic institute (Wijngaards) to lend legitimacy to its arguments which is full of lies and twisted facts and crafted to appeal to the uninformed Catholic. Now is the moment for each and every one of the Catholic Doctor to stand up and be counted.

In this aspect, FIAMC can play an important role in leading the world by promoting the “Culture of Life”. The mark of a Catholic Doctor is the respect of the sanctity of life and every physician must be informed so that he can spread the Gospel of Life. I am confident that the Asian doctors will continue to defend the sanctity of life from the moment of conception to death.

With due respect to the religious, the healing ministry of a Catholic doctor is closer to the work of Jesus than that of the priest for in many instances Christ was a healer of both the body and soul. The Catholic doctor follows the example of Christ, the divine physician by being the perfect mirror of God’s love.

It must have been by the prompting of the Holy Spirit that Dr Buichi chose the theme of this Congress 3 years ago. The theme “What Should We Do for the Least of Our Brethren?” (Matt 25:40) is a fitting conclusion to the Jubilee Year of Mercy which will end on Nov 20th.

The Jubilee Year of Mercy is an invitation by the Holy Father to encounter love, kindness and unbounded generosity. Pope Francis is offering you the opportunity to experience the incredible mercy of God. Encountering mercy means encountering God. It can transform your life, your vocation as healthcare professionals and your ability to embrace life. The closing of the holy door in St Peter’s Basilica does not signify the end but is a clarion call to continue on your journey to develop a deeper love relationship with God not only as a Catholic doctor but also in every aspect of your life.

In the parable of the gold coins (Luke 19:11-27) Jesus warns us that we will be asked to give an account of what we did with the talents given to us. I urge you to use your God given talents to be the salt of the earth and spread His word wherever He sends you. I am sure there are many amongst you who are already proclaiming the kingdom of heaven in the wonderful work you are doing.

In conclusion, I would like to thank the organisers of the 16th AFCMA Congress for their wonderful hospitality and exceptional organisation. You have set a standard that will be hard to match and have made the Kyoto Congress a most memorable experience.

Thank you and God bless,

John Lee

President FIAMC