8 June 1982

To the patients and personnel of the Bambino Gesù Children’s Hospital

 In the evening of Tuesday, 8 June, Pope John Paul II visited Bambino Gesú Children’s Hospital to bless and inaugurate the new medical-surgical centre for pediatric cardiology and gave the following address.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

My dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. Once again I have come, filled with emotion, to visit the Bambino Gesu’ Pediatric Hospital.  I willingly accepted the administration’s invitation to bless and inaugurate the new Medical-surgical Department of Pediatric Cardiology, and I would like to give public expression today to my satisfaction and pleasure at the fact that this hospital is continually renewing itself and adding a complex of advanced apparatus, with  the aim of being able to offer the little heart patients the most suitable and exact treatment which will give them back their longed-for health. I feel it my duty on this occasion to express my sincere thanks to all those who thought of, decided on and planned this marvellous scientific complex, and all those who have generously and unselfishly contributed to its realization, and to all those professors, doctors, paramedical staff and sisters who carry out their duties with such praiseworthy devotion.

But I have come to this place especially because called here at the instance of the thin, agonized cry of these children who bear in their fragile little bodies the weight of sickness and suffering, and I want to tell them and show them, in your name, in the name of the Church, all the enormous affection with which we want to surround them, particularly in the times of their most acute weakness.

We share in the suffering of Jesus

2. Visiting a hospital, and a children’s hospital in particular, arouses in the depths of one’s heart some of the most radical questions about the meaning of life and man’s existence: the continuous, incessant, inescapable presence of suffering, especially that of the “innocent”, strikes the astonished and perplexed human reason as a genuine “scandal” capable of bringing into question and dangerous crises the certainties on which our intellectual, religious and ethical life is based.  The heartfelt whimpering and the piercing crying of a suffering child can seem almost a protest by the whole of humanity against the impenetrable silence of God, who permits such an amount of suffering.

Where human reason seems to come up against a thick wall of  shadow and considers itself right in assuming an attitude of revolt, the Divine Word introduces us into the “mystery” of human suffering, presenting to our consideration and our experience Jesus, Christ and Lord, the Son of God, in whom the prophetic figure of the “Suffering Servant” and “Man of Sorrows” (Is 53:3) takes flesh: Jesus, who is so deeply moved in the face of others’ suffering, who takes on suffering completely in his Passion and Death, the obligatory passage for his Resurrection and Glorification.

Well then, if we suffer, we share in the sufferings of Jesus, in order, as Saint Paul will tell us, that we may also share in his glory (Rom 8 17).  If we carry always and everywhere in our body the sufferings and death of Jesus, it is so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body (cf 2 Cor 4:10).  And the same Apostle, who in his life experienced a long apprenticeship in pain, can speak of the joy which he feels in the sufferings that he endures, because he can complete in his flesh what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ, for the sake of his Body which is the Church (cf. Col 1:24).

In this Christian view of pain, the lament and crying of those who suffer, especially children, are not therefore a bitter protest, but a solemn, pure and stirring prayer of entreaty which is raised from this poor earth to the throne of God, that all men may be freed and purified from evil, that they may order their lives in harmony with the demands of divine revelation and may show themselves genuine “children of God.”

Blessed are you

3. From this point of view, Jesus declared “blessed” those who mourn and are afflicted, for they will be comforted (cf. Mt 5:4); and on the day of his return in glory as supreme and final judge of history, he will identify himself with all the suffering of the earth:  “…I was sick and you visited me as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (cf. Mt 25:36, 40).  This solemn proclamation from the lips of Christ must give a new and supernatural meaning to the task which you all perform on behalf of the least of the brethren of Jesus, the children who are sick and suffering.  Your specific competence, your exemplary devotion, your generous commitment are directed towards Jesus, the God-Man, who is mysteriously present in them.  It is in this spirit of the Gospel that your profession, in itself worthy of the greatest respect, becomes an authentic “mission” of faith and a contribution to the total elevation of man, made in the image and likeness of God.

From this place of suffering, but also of hope, I would like to address an invitation, an appeal, to scientists and those in whose hands is the fate of the earthly city:  it is urgent, it is necessary, that enterprises, studies, research and contributions be directed and coordinated towards the alleviation of the suffering of our brethren who have been struck by various calamities and are the victims of illness.  It is necessary to provide the proper finance for these studies and researches geared to the physical health of citizens.  Let not the largest expenditure of the various countries be for armaments, the most sophisticated instruments capable only of causing destruction, death and desperation, while on the other hand no attention is given to those works and initiatives which are necessary and cannot be deferred if the life of men, even from a health point of view, is to be spent quietly and serenely in peace, justice and order.

It is my wish that this pediatric hospital, the Bambino Gesu’, will be a forward-pointing sign and a centre for studies in which these little children will be offered, along with the ever more advanced treatments which technology and science can provide, the most sensitive affection and devotion, inspired by the message of love of the Gospel of Christ.

With these wishes and in this spirit, I whole-heartedly confer my Apostolic Blessing upon these dear patients, the members of their families, the administration, the doctors, the paramedical staff, the sisters, the friends of the Bambino Gesu’ and all here present.

John Paul II