26 April 1986

To the participants in a Congress of the Italian Pharmacist Federation

On Saturday, 25 April, the Holy Father spoke to participants in the Congress of the Italian Pharmacist Federation.  His address, delivered in the Paul VI Hall, follows.

Dear Friends,

1. With lively cordiality and deference I greet you, participants in the annual Congress of the Italian Pharmacist Federation, who on the occasion of this meeting are accompanied by a large group of family members.

In welcoming you, I wish to express my sincere gratitude for your desire to listen to the words of the Church as a stimulus which can further inspire and animate the aims of your noble profession.

The general theme of this twenty-first of the “Italian Pharmaceutical Days” is itself very significant:  “The pharmacist and the great social ills”.  It leads you to examine the problems of the pharmaceutical sector, with particular regard for its social and health-care aspects and relations.  The scientific and cultural importance of the sector, already notable in ancient times, has enriched its social connotation in the modern world, where the pharmacist can no longer reduce himself to one who prepares and distributes medicine.

In modern society the pharmacy, which has become an ever more accessible centre of assistance, is asked to provide the possibility of living well in spite of physical or psychological “ailments”.  Medicines thus really become products for mass consumption, to the point that they are not always correctly used, and are sometimes abused.  Thus is born your new role as promoters of the health-care conscience in the people’s midst.

2. In my brief meeting with you in May of 1981, I recalled the Church’s interest and attention concerning scientific research, whatever area it focuses upon.  This time, in line with the work of your conference, I would like to dwell upon the value of the human and ethical dimension of your activity, which on the one hand increases your moral responsibilities and, on the other hand, situates you at the highest and, certainly, most sought-after level as collaborators in a design of sublime greatness.

The fundamental theme which is the object of your articulated reflections itself evidences your choice and your openness in the face of the problems of the human person viewed in his physical and spiritual totality.  Your profession, which places you in the category of health-care workers, in fact brings you close to man on a daily basis, in order to help him recover physical health and to defend the inestimable gift of life.

3. For these reasons the Church, which places the mystery of the greatness and the misery of man at the centre of her concerns and pastoral care, understands and duly appreciates the contribution of your particular work to the common effort.  From the dawn of her foundation she has considered assistance to the sick an integral part of her mission.  If today, following the directives of the Second Vatican Council, she invites Christians and all men and women to collaborate with the sectors of culture and science, she does so in order that full and integral human development might be assured (Gaudium et Spes, 61).

For these reasons I myself, in response to a widely-felt need, decided to create last May a special “Pontifical Commission for the Apostolate of Health Care Workers”, in order to stimulate and coordinate the activities of the various forces at work in the Church, to be attentive to the programmed orientations and the concrete initiatives of various actions, grasping their implications for the apostolate.

During my various apostolic journeys, especially to developing nations, I never tire of repeating that the world of health care is a place of struggle for man, where technology tends to take up ever greater space, not always safeguarding the rights of the person.

Suffering, illness and death are fundamental “human” events, and everyone’s primary concern must be to collaborate together so as to resolve the problems created by these events in a human way.

Assistance to the sick person in overcoming his trial with dignity is certainly the service which humanity expects of science, technology and pharmacology.  But this will not be possible without a clear vision of absolute respect for the human person, who alone transcends the value of all material realities.

This is the constant point of reference which we must never lose sight of if we wish to avoid consequences that degenerate into the tragedy of the great social ills, the object of your study.

4. According to the Christian concept the person, created in the Image of God, is the highest expression of the life of the universe.  He is ordered to God, and the universe is ordered to him.  As the Creator of all things has infused hidden forces in nature to be discovered in order to draw out means for the protection and the development of life, so also has he written in human nature itself the principles of the universal norms of conduct, which are not left to the interpretation of the subjective will, nor to the variations of current mentality.

There are essential values and rights connected with the dignity and supreme destiny of the human person, beginning with the basic right to life, which must be defended throughout the range of its existence.  Today more than ever it is threatened from the moment of conception to its last declining hours.  To respect these norms is to make oneself a collaborator with life: otherwise one becomes a worker of death.

Dear friends, in the exercise of your profession you, as few others, have the opportunity to contribute to the formation of people’s moral conduct.  Always be conscious of the high moral responsibilities that your noble profession involves, and of the great service that you are called to render to today’s society.  Never hide the dignity of your mission!

My heartfelt best wishes, inspired by esteem and appreciation go with you.


John Paul II