Posts Tagged ‘council’

Secretary of Justice and Peace Council Comments on Benedict’s Message

By Mercedes De La Torre

ROME, JAN. 10, 2012 ( On the first day of the new year, in which the World Day of Peace was observed, Bishop Mario Toso, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, commented on the Pope’s message for the Day, titled “Educate Young People in Justice and Peace.”

Bishop Toso pointed out that the Holy Father trusts young people, because they show hope and are able to receive God in the midst of human history.

ZENIT spoke with the Salesian bishop, professor of social philosophy, former rector of the Pontifical Salesian University and Consultor for 20 years of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, about Benedict XVI’s message.

ZENIT: Why does Benedict XVI address young people in particular in this 45th Message for the World Day of Peace?

Bishop Toso: Benedict XVI wished to address this message in particular to young people who today live in a world of incessant transformation, in a world that sociologists describe as “liquid”: new projects are begun and are not solidified, so that youth live in a reality that changes constantly, and even those points that seem to be the most solid also seem to change.

In this context of swift changes and a lack of solid points of reference, Benedict XVI addresses young people, seeing them as a part of the human family that has great resources of hope. In fact, young people, especially in the World Youth Day that was held in Madrid, but also in other events that we have learned about in the media, are showing — also in reference to the fall of regimes and the need to erect democratic institutions — a young, fresh intuition, which helps adults to accept the fundamental values we must invest in and which can constitute the foundation of a more just and peaceful society.

ZENIT: Why does the Pope have confidence in young people as builders of peace?

Bishop Toso: Benedict XVI’s confidence in young people is based above all on two motives: the first is that young people, in face of life and the great responsibilities of the human family, believe in the possibility of a profound transformation, of the renewal of institutions, and their enthusiasm can be the engine for positive change in our societies, even becoming witnesses and leaders, enabling adults to question themselves.

The second reason is that Benedict XVI believes in the capacity of young people to intercept God, to receive Him in the midst of human history as the One who can help humanity to come out of the dark tunnel in which it finds itself. In reality, the dark tunnels that cause despair are different, disallowing even the possibility of a more just world. They are tunnels represented by the food crisis, the financial crisis, the crisis of appropriating essential resources, the ecological crisis and, above all, the anthropological, ethical crisis.

ZENIT: How can young people help to create a more fraternal society?

Bishop Toso: As the Message for the World Day of Peace acknowledges, young people not only have the task to be involved in the educational process, but they have a mission — Benedict XVI states clearly — to stimulate, to be an example to adults and to one another.

Young people especially have a youthful and genuine intuition in regard to great values and they make every effort and commit themselves enthusiastically in the small daily things as well as those that are important: respect for the environment, the fight against corruption and illegality, the implementation of justice, and dignified and respectful treatment of persons in the field of the economy, in the field of finance. With their example, they have the possibility of offering models of what could be the construction of a new society, and new human relations based on the values of fraternity, solidarity and mutual gift — values in which young people are particularly sensitive.

It is often said that today’s young people are the first generation that think that their descendants will live in worse conditions of life. However, I sincerely believe that young people of the age of globalization wish and know that they can contribute to the construction of a better, more united and solidary humanity, the humanity that Jesus Christ inaugurated with his Incarnation.

Director of Laity Council’s Sports Section Speaks on Prayer and Role Models

By Kathleen Naab

ROME, JAN. 13, 2012 ( The director of the “Church and Sport” section at the Pontifical Council for the Laity admits that the “Tim Tebow phenomenon” has heightened his interest in the NFL playoffs.

Legionary of Christ Father Kevin Lixey works in the Roman Curia helping the Church make a contribution to the world of sport, with the aim of promoting a sports culture suitable to the integral development of the individual.

ZENIT spoke with Father Lixey about the Denver Broncos quarterback, Tim Tebow, after Tebow led his team to an overtime win in last Sunday’s playoff game.

Those familiar with the NFL — and even those who are not — might have heard of Tebow for more than his unique style as a quarterback. His outward expressions of his Christian faith are being talked about by all sorts of commentators, in the world of American football and beyond. Though certainly not the only athlete to publicly express his faith on the field, Tebow is drawing more attention than usual. We asked Father Lixey what he thinks about that.

ZENIT: Do you see Tim Tebow’s public expression of faith as a positive or negative phenomenon? Certainly it is drawing a lot of attention to Christ, in one form or another …

Father Lixey: The hype over Tim Tebow is certainly an interesting phenomenon in an ever more secularized world. I consider it something very positive. Even at the college level, while quarterback for the Florida Gators during the 2009 Bowl Championship Series title contest, Tebow wrote “John 3:16” on his eye black. The Palm Beach Post reported that 92million people Googled the verse following the game … impressive!

But, it is not the mere public expression of faith — as Tebow drops a

knee to give thanks after a touchdown, or prays with other players who include teammates and opponents after the game — that is attracting people; it is his entire person.

I had the chance to speak with the offensive coordinator who coached Tim at the Florida Gators. He said he was a very unique player who was spiritually on another stratosphere with respect to the rest of the team. Yet, Tim was respected by his teammates because he was genuine. And this is the point I would like to touch on. As one reporter noted (Chuck Klosterman, Dec. 6, 2011): “This, I think, is what makes Tebow so maddening to those who hate him: He refuses to say anything that would validate the suspicion that he’s fake (or naïve or self-righteous or dumb).”

While Tebow certainly sticks out for these external manifestations of his faith, not to mention his unorthodox playing style as an NFL quarterback, his personal background is also not typical for an NFL quarterback. It is a real “Cinderella” story — although those who have to tackle Tim would not consider him a Cinderella.

First of all, Tim Tebow was born in the Philippines to American parents who were serving as Baptist missionaries, as his father is a pastor. His mother, while pregnant, suffered a life-threatening infection and was advised to have an abortion but she decided not to, and both Tim and his mother survived a difficult pregnancy. Another unique aspect is that Tim, like his four older siblings, was home-schooled. Thanks to legislation that was passed in Florida in 1996, home-schooled students were allowed to compete in local high school sporting events.

ZENIT: OK, but does prayer really have a place in football? Surely God doesn’t care about who wins the Super Bowl — or does he?

Father Lixey: Judging from his public statements, Tebow is one of the few and most prominent religious athletes to recognize that God does not care about the score of football games. Tebow considers his missionary and philanthropic work much more important than football, but at the same time, possible, because of it. We all too often equate prayer with only asking good things from God, where prayer is only used “to obtain something” i.e., victory, health, or a miracle. The Catechism reminds us that prayer is also “the raising of one’s mind and heart to God” and that we “we must remember God more often that we draw breath.”

Certainly there are moments and places more conducive to prayer, but there is no reason that all religious manifestations be entirely banned from the public square. These external manifestations of one’s beliefs are impressive precisely because they are public. Just as Christians once fell to their knees at the sound of the Angelus bell to remember the Incarnation, or just as the cab driver makes the point of getting out of his car to bow down toward Mecca in prayer, I see no reason why a professional football player cannot offer a prayer of thanksgiving or point to heaven instead of doing a lewd victory dance in the end zone.

Nonetheless, these external manifestations can make some people feel uneasy and it is not certain how long this will be “allowed” in the NFL. The Danish Football Federation complained to FIFA for permitting members of the Brazilian national to gather together in prayer after their victory of the 2009 Confederations Cup. FIFA’s president responded by warning that any religious manifestation would not be permitted in the 2010 World Cup.

ZENIT: Along those lines, the Tebow “phenomenon” comes at a time when the U.S. bishops are particularly concerned about religious freedom. Is reaction to Tebow’s public expression of faith a sign that their concern is warranted? Or misplaced? Or is religious freedom on the playing field one thing, and in the public square something else?

Father Lixey: Pope Benedict XVI is also particularly concerned about religious freedom and touched upon this point Monday in his address to members of the diplomatic corps, noting: “In many countries Christians are deprived of fundamental rights and sidelined from public life; in other countries they endure violent attacks against their churches and their homes.”

Obviously the Holy Father was not speaking about the FIFA decision to sideline religion. But it does raise the question: “What is the public square today?” Is it literally that quaint square in front of a town hall somewhere in New England, where perhaps it is no longer permissible to display a Nativity scene? Or is it the Internet, a person’s desk at work, or the professional football stadium?

I think many are impressed with Tim Tebow’s courage in professing his faith for he certainly is mocked for it. When he received flack for doing a pro-life ad with “Focus on the Family” that ran during the 2010 Superbowl, he said: “I know some people won’t agree with it, but I think they can at least respect that I stand up for what I believe in.” This is all Tim is asking. Whether it is standing up, or taking a knee, for what he believes in, many people do respect this, that he stands up for what he believes. Yet, others become infuriated as they consider Tebow guilty of breaching the line that all are supposed to respect, namely, that which separates the secular from the religious, the holy from the profane, the sacred from the everyday.

ZENIT: As Catholics, what can we learn from this situation — from Tebow himself, perhaps, and from the reactions he’s causing?

Father Lixey: Blessed John Paul II once reminded a group of top professional soccer players: “The eyes of sports fans throughout the world are fixed on you. Be conscious of your responsibility! It is not only the champion in the stadium but also the whole person who should become a model for millions of young people, who need ‘leaders,’ not ‘idols.’ They need men who can convey to them the zest for challenge, a sense of discipline, the courage to be honest and the joy of unselfishness.”

I believe Tim Tebow is trying to live up to these words of John Paul II and his example can prompt other athletes to be “leaders” and not idols, being a model on and off the field, especially of the corporal works of mercy. As Tim shares in his own words: “When I was a student at the University of Florida, I found great joy in taking time to encourage children suffering from cancer in hospitals or visiting a prison or juvenile detention center, or doing mission work with my family at Uncle Dick’s Orphanage in the Philippines. … Football is so popular (that) it enables an athlete like me to establish a platform for doing good deeds … to take this experience to an even greater level of outreach and influence. … After my professional career, I plan on giving my life full time to this outreach.”

That’s not a bad role model for the youth. … It’s not a bad example for us to follow either.

Cardinal Lozano Barragán on Future of Health Care

“Putting Technology at the Service of Man”

ROME, OCT. 6, 2007 ( Here is the address delivered by Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán, the president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry, during a conference co-sponsored by the Vatican dicastery and the Acton Institute, titled “Health, Technology and Common Good.” It was held at the Pontifical Gregorian University on Oct. 28.

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My Dear Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have been honored to welcome all of you into this one-day conference which reflects themes based on Health, Technology, and Common Good. Well, I shall do this duty with pleasure, on behalf of the joint organizers of this Conference: The Acton Institute and the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care.

First of all, it is my duty to welcome all the distinguished speakers of the day. We have a wide spectrum of topics as well as experts for each session. So let us give all of them a hearty welcome and wish that they will enlighten us throughout the day. Then, to all the participants so that the reflections of today will lead us to more fruitful action in the future.

I have been asked to present “The Future for Health Care: Putting Technology at the Service of Man.” Well, I am to do that presentation in two divided sessions, one in the beginning as I am doing now, and the other at the end of the day as closing remarks.

Part I: Introduction

Therefore, at this moment I shall try to introduce briefly the day’s theme: Health, Technology and the Common Good. First of all, there needs to be a clear understanding of what health is; because technology must be oriented to health, and to the future of care health. I am sure Monsignor Jean Laffite is an expert to explain it to us in detail. It has been my experience as the president of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care that there is a lot of confusion regarding health, even among political leaders as well as Church leaders. Many bishops from all over the world, when they come to visit the Pontifical council, had asked me to present for them what does it mean health today, especially when there are lot of technological developments. So I prepared especially for them a short volume called “Metabioethics and Biomedicine.”

My point is there are people who seriously want to understand clearly what health is, especially at this period of globalization, when they are bombarded with partial or unclear information, especially from various international organizations, NGOs and other associations who are involved in health care. There is clearly a paradigm shift in the ethical reflection on health. This so called “New Paradigm” is supposed to be the official thought of the United Nations and its various bodies like WHO and UNESCO.[1] It is supported by four NGOs in particular: “Women’s Environment and Development Organization,” “Earth Council,” “Green Peace” and “International Planned Parenthood Federation.”

According to its proponents the objective of the new global ethics is to achieve global well-being within the confines of sustainable development. This global well-being is what forms the target also known as World Health Organization Quality of Life (WHOQOL) and is defined as: “the perception by the individual of his position in life, within the context of the culture and system of values in which he finds himself, and in relation to his goals, expectations, models and interests.”

It covers six areas: 1. Physical health, 2. Psychological health, 3. Level of independence, 4. Social relations, 5. Context (economy, freedom, security, information, participation, environment, traffic, climate, transport…) 6. Spirituality. Aside from social duties, the basic factors are autonomy and self-determination.

One of the precepts of this new paradigm is “Health For All”. Health for all is defined as at Alma Ata: “the state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

It requires ten aspects: health education, adequate nutrition, clean drinking water, basic health care, maternal infant care, immunization against the major contagious diseases, prevention and control of local endemic diseases, suitable treatment in the event of common disasters and illnesses, access to basic medicines and reproductive health.

Although apparently there are values in this new paradigm shift what is basically wrong is an ideology that is “closed to the transcendent.” First of all, there is an ethical subjectivism and relativism. Since there no objective validity in their argument those who hold to this thinking concentrate their activities above all in “lobbies,” to seek or buy consensus. Their thinking is based on a distinction made between the human being or individual and the person. In any case, there are only rights for the person, not for the human being or the individual.

One is a person only when he acts as such in the complex world of interrelationships of sensorial, mental, conscious, social activities, symbolic gestures, etc. If, at any given moment, someone is not capable of acting as such, he ceases to be a person and is simply a human being or an individual, deprived of any right that could be described as human right. This gives rise to questions related to health issues of the individual in relation to technological advancement, especially concerning the right to life of the fertilized egg, the human state of the “pre-embryo” or the embryo, the right to abortion, the ban on eugenics, euthanasia, etc.

As background of this way of thinking we find the confusion between well-being and happiness. And also the concept of liberty as something absolute and closed in itself.

In contrast with the position of the New Paradigm, we can approach to the authentic concept of health such as is described by the servant of God John Paul II: According him health is a tension towards harmony at the physical, psychological, spiritual and social level, and not mere absence of illness, and which enables man to fulfill his God-given mission in the stages of life he finds himself.[2]

Part II: The Future of Health-Care: Putting Technology at the Service of Man.

Following this pontifical description of health, what will be the future of the technology in the field of health, if it will be authentic progress?

Addressing the participants of the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care, Pope Benedict XVI said: “The health of the human being, of the whole human being, was the sign chosen by Christ to manifest God’s closeness, his merciful love, which heals the mind, the soul and the body…. Going to the aid of the human being is a duty: both in response to a fundamental right of the person and because the care of individuals redounds to the benefit of the group. Medical science makes progress to the extent that it is willing to constantly discuss diagnosis and methods of treatment, in the knowledge that it will be possible to surpass the previous data acquired and the presumed limits. Moreover, esteem for and confidence in health-care personnel are proportionate to the certainty that these official guardians of life will never condemn a human life, however impaired it may be, and will always encourage endeavors to treat it. Consequently, treatment should be extended to every human being, meaning throughout his or her entire existence. The modern conception of health care is in fact human advancement: from the treatment of the sick person to preventive treatment, with the search for the greatest possible human development, encouraging an adequate family and social environment.”[3]

Therefore, when we speak about putting technology at the service of man we are considering humanity as such and for the common good in general. As the Second Vatican Council had observed, “Every day human interdependence grows more tightly drawn and spreads by degrees over the whole world. As a result the common good, that is, the sum of those conditions of social life which allow social groups and their individual members relatively thorough and ready access to their own fulfillment, today takes on an increasingly universal complexion and consequently involves rights and duties with respect to the whole human race. Every social group must take account of the needs and legitimate aspirations of other groups, and even of the general welfare of the entire human family.”[4]

In today’s globalized world we need to think in terms of human connectivity. Some of the modern technologies in health care themselves are connecting human race. An example is “eHealth” or health-care delivery supported by information technology, of digital data — transmitted, stored and retrieved electronically — in support of health care, both at the local level and at a distance.

Internet has helped connect so many medical personnel by providing information on the latest achievements in health technologies, thanks to servers installed by medical faculties and medical journals. Another example would be “Telemedicine.”

When the patient and doctor are in far away places, they could use modern communication technologies (two way interactive consultation and digital image/data transmission) to send radiology images, laboratory reports, medical records, etc.

Telemedicine has proven very efficient, especially in emergency situations like NASA (The National Aeronautics and Space Administration) intervening in the 1985 Mexico City earthquake, or the 1988 earthquake in Armenia. In 1994 they have improved it into ACTS or Advanced Communication Technology Satellite.

In 1996 TIP (Portable Telemedicine Instrumentation Pack) was made available for easy transportation by health care personnel. Today we can speak of telesugery, teleradiology, teledentistry, teledermitology, telepathology, teleoncology, telepsycology, telecardiology, teleneurology, telenursing, etc.

The European Health Telematics Observatory’s (EHTO) assertion is illustrative: health telematics activities are used by hospitals (34%), telephone utilities (14%), academic institutions (12%), clinicians (12%), governments (7%) and social services (4%).[5]

Some of the technologies enhance the past groundbreaking achievements in health care science: the concept about “public health”, Epidemiology and its branches like Neuron Epidemiology, Cardiovascular Epidemiology, Cancer Epidemiology, etc., Health Economics and Health Management and so on. This last one branch has helped form health policies where there is awareness that spending on health care “is not an expenditure but an investment.” This has also helped strategies of preventive and promotive measures in health care.

During my pastoral visits around the world, it is very heartening for me to see dozens of immaturely born children being cared in the incubators by well-trained, diligent and gentle health care personnel; or hundreds of children born to HIV infected mothers saved due to the timely administration of AZT. In the same way the news coming from a country in Africa that the death toll could be reduced to 1 from an average of 26 every month, thanks to the assistance they are getting from the Good Samaritan Foundation for the purchase of anti-retroviral medicine as well as basic nutrients.

Technology and Bioethics

What are the main principles that must lead the future of health technology? We try to answer regarding the biomedical field. As a general principle we can establish this; that which builds man is good, and that which destroys him is bad.

We know that Biomedical technology holds a great deal of promise in the areas of diagnosis and treatment of diseases. Strong health care systems invariably rely heavily on access to and use of health technologies. But we must also be aware of the fact that technology and medicine are only a part of the health care system and undue insistence on their capabilities may give more emphasis in meeting the demands of the providers than that of the human persons. The ultimate criterion in the use of all technologies must be the good of man. Everything technologically possible need not be ethically oriented. For this, ultimately we need a bioethics that is open to the transcendent.

In discussing the sciences of life and reflecting on the experimental sciences that manipulate life, one wonders about correct human behaviour in relation to human life, deficiency in human life, increase in human life, improvement in human life, procedures to be followed to obtain this improvement and deviations to be avoided. As a final condition, we find ourselves before the binomial necessity-satisfaction. This means that there is a living subject that aspires at improving himself, to do this he must journey along a path, and to do this he must plot the path, and to do this he must first know where he is heading for. Within the context of life, it is necessary to know what life is, what is the better life that one desires, the path to be followed and the path to be avoided in this journey, for instead of donating life, it could be taken away. In other words, biotechnology appears as a project for the building of man through the life and health sciences, that can build or destroy.

The horizon for Ethics in itself is finality. The horizon of Technology is only the possibility. The technology itself, is neuter, can build or destroy man. All depends from its direction, and the direction is given to Technology by Ethics. Therefore, in order to have a true code of bioethics, which provides us with rules of behaviour in the area of health and life, the first, question we must ask ourselves concerns the project for man, which involves the manipulation of life and health. Authentic Bioethics must appear as the project to improve human life and includes all the life and health sciences as its base, as that “intus legere” (inte-lecto, reading from inside) which in any analysis always concerns the final synthesis of what cannot be anything other than the construction of human life.

For a vital project to function (like any other project), it is necessary to understand the living reality that expects improvement as much as possible. This is a path that belongs to Bioethics. Here, we find rules which cannot simply be formulations or imperatives external to the person, instead they are real constructions of the same person and which little by little bring it nearer to the “better person”, thereby increasing its density.

This complexity brings him to a consciousness of his reality which means being relational, open and thus embarking on his journey, that is, freely opening himself up to the Other, which in this case is the fulfillment of the Power of Truth and Love, which is precisely God. To attain freedom, Man in his project for development, opens himself up to the force of genuine progress in Biotechnology in order to ascertain, each time ever more that his vital completeness is in constant harmony with God, with all of humanity and with the whole surrounding environment.

And now, if we try to pass over the natural way of thinking to Revelation of God, in Catholic thought, this Ethics that is open, “objective”, real, and with no constrictions, opens up to full communication with God the Almighty Father who brings about in us the Truth of His Son through His Incarnation, Passion, Death and Resurrection. He fulfils all our aspirations by bringing us along the Way that is Christ, in the fullness of the Love of His Spirit. Catholic Ethics and Bioethics are the Christ’s journey within us, to His Father through His death and resurrection, in the Love of the Holy Spirit. In this way, Bioethics will be the journeying within us of the Spirit along the paths of the life and health sciences. “Those led by the Spirit are the children of God” (Romans 8,14). The Spirit infuses in man the ability to journey towards the total construction of Christ — this ability are the virtues — and directs him into the comprehension of Christ Himself as a way, by means of the Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount.

We Christians know that the only possibility for the true vital construction of man is the resurrection. Stated in concrete historic terms, the only possibility for vital construction is union with Christ, who died and rose from the dead. This is the only Ethics that is objectively valid and to which all the authentic values found in non-Christian ethics come close to and as such are indicators of the sole reality which goes beyond illusions of vital permanence.

According to the Roman Catholic view, the construction of man is a theandric construction where divine and human actions intertwine. In translating these actions into principles of valid action for guiding Biomedicine, we can state the following:

1. The human being is a creation of God, it is from Him he comes and to whom he must tend as his exemplary and final Cause. The person is in the image of God, member of the Body of Christ, citizen of the people of God.

2. Human life is received from humanity, not as property but to be administered. Human life is inviolable from its very conception to its natural end. The dignity of the human person is inviolable. It is on this that all Anthropology and Bioethics is based.

3. The origin to human life must lie solely in marriage and solely as the fruit of the marital act.

4. Spouses are not the cause of human life but the instruments of God in
communicating life.

5. From Christ, the human person is capable of reflection, is an end in himself and can never be considered as a means.

6. The human person has his freedom and responsibility that he must put to practice in order to attain fulfillment. There is no freedom without responsibility that in turn implies respect for the freedom of others.

7. The totality is above the part and sometimes the part must be sacrificed in favor of the totality. The human person is in solidarity and must tend towards the common good.

8. The only explanation of life and its single source is Christ who died and was raised to life. If death and suffering are considered in unity with the death of Christ they are the only source of life.

9. In this context, the three principles of subjective Bioethics: autonomy, beneficence and justice, can be accepted and justified.

10. The human person is the synthesis of the universe and is the reason for everything that exists. Biomedical science and technology must be at the service of human life and not vice versa, namely, such knowledge should be used to develop man and never to destroy him.


If then we make an attempt to define Catholic Bioethics and so, try to synthesize principles that lead the authentic future of health Technology we can enounce the following as conclusion of this paper: The Bioethics is “The systematic and detailed study of the conduct that constructs man through the health and life sciences in order to walk in Christ towards the Father, the fullness of life, by the power of the Holy Spirit”.

This theological vision implies a profound structural dialogue with all sciences and technologies involved, with all the unifying ideas from the analyses, made by the different philosophical and theological schools, also in dialogue with other religions, bearing in mind that it is a behavioral study and therefore cannot be solely a line of reflection but must be concretized as a guiding light to resolve the difficult problems raised by science and technology.

Javier Cardinal Lozano Barragán
Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care
Vatican City

[1] See Kim Yersu, 1999. “A Common Framework for Ethics of the Twenty-First Century.” UNESCO, Division of Philosophy and Ethics. Cited Nov. 15, 1999, at

[2] See John Paul II, “Message for the World Day of the Sick for the Year 2000,” “Dolentium Hominum,” 42 (3, 1999), No. 13.

[3] Benedict XVI, Address to the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care, March 22, 2007.

[4] “Gaudium et spes,” No. 26.

[5] See Department of Essential Health Technologies (WHO), “Information Technology in Support of Health Care”, p. 2 at

“The Church Must Feel Concerned Regarding Immigrants”

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 15, 2007 ( Here is the text of an address given by Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers, at the annual meeting of European national directors for the pastoral care of migrants, held in Sibiu, Romania, from Sept. 3 to 4.

* * *

Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

Annual Meeting of European National Directors for the Pastoral Care of Migrants
(Sibiu, Sept. 3-4, 2007)

Migration, an opportunity for the ecumene

Cardinal Renato Raffaele MARTINO
President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

Recently, a book entitled “Globus. Per una teoria storico-universale dello spazio” (Globus. Toward a historical-universal theory of space), a translation from German, was published in Italy. In this volume, the author, Franz Rosenzweig, makes a rapid but well-studied, original and significant reconstruction of the whole world history. The first part of the publication is entitled “Ecumene,” seen from the point of view of relationships between earthly forces that push toward the unification of the world.

“If millennia were needed for us to acquire theoretical awareness of the spherical form of the earth,” the author affirms, “we cannot be surprised by how slow world history walks toward unity of the globe. Yet, God created only one sky and one earth. Ecumenism is the final goal of humankind’s journey,” a sign of which is migration, indeed an opportunity for the ecumene.

Today, in fact, migration is one of the most important and most complex challenges of our modern world. Consequently, social transformation, caused by welcoming immigrants, is discussed in public hearings, such that the question of “migration” appears as one of the top issues in the international agenda.

The migration phenomenon is therefore analyzed in relation to development. Migrants’ contribution to the labor market is studied, leading to the conclusion that they are important for world economy. A witness to this is the First Global Forum on Migration and Development, recently held in Brussels, last July 9-11.

In spite of this, however, many governments are adopting more restrictive measures to counter immigration, especially if irregular. Researchers on the migration phenomenon, on their part, are for the opening of frontiers, not simply to solve contingent problems, but to situate the process in a global scenario. Migration has indeed become a structural phenomenon. This does not mean, however, that a vision of a “total” and “indiscriminate” freedom to immigrate is being adopted. It is rather the task of governments to regulate the magnitude and the form of migration flows. They should, however, take common good into consideration, so that immigrants would be worthily welcomed, and the population of the receiving countries would not be put in a condition that would lead them to reject the newcomers. This would have unfavorable consequences both for immigrants and the local population, as well as for relations between peoples. Naturally national common good must be considered in the context of universal common good. This brings us back to that vision of the “ecumene” that I mentioned at the beginning of my talk.

Our task, however, is that of identifying facts and aspects of migration that would help us understand the value of the phenomenon itself. This will enable us to interpret this “sign of the times”[1] from a Christian perspective, and to offer our pastoral service to the world of human mobility in its totality, in its universality. And for you, this is true for Europe.

There has always been solicitude on the part of the Church for migration — we have to take note of this.[2] Involvement in various forms confirms its ability to interpret this rapidly changing reality. Active ecclesial commitment, especially at a pastoral level, naturally includes socio-humanitarian action so that the foreigner would be accepted and integrated in society, through an itinerary leading to authentic communion, where there is due respect for diversity. It is however necessary to remember that rights and duties come together, also for migrants.

Regarding respect for the fundamental rights of the human person, hence also of those who are involved in human mobility, the Church is continuously dedicated to this at various levels and in different areas. Specific initiatives, messages of the Holy Father, action to build awareness among international entities and governments of migrants’ countries of origin, transit and destination, define the Church’s “strategy.” This is based on the central position and “sacredness” of the human person[3], to be upheld particularly when he/she is unprotected or marginalized. This “brings to light certain important theological and pastoral findings that have been acquired. These are: […] the defense of the rights of migrants, both men and women, and their children; [the question of the migrant family]; the ecclesial and missionary dimension of migration; the reappraisal of the apostolate of the laity; the value of cultures in the work of evangelization; the protection and appreciation of minority groups in the Church; the importance of dialogue both inside and outside the Church; and the specific contribution of emigration to world peace” (EMCC No. 27). In all this, we can clearly see a basis for an ecumenical commitment.

Indeed the recent position of the Holy See regarding migration shows that attention is given to the continuous transformation of the phenomenon of human mobility and to the current exigencies of people in contemporary society. This is because it wants “to respond to the new spiritual and pastoral needs of migrants” bearing in mind “the ecumenical aspect of the phenomenon, owing to the presence among migrants of Christians not in full communion with the Catholic Church, and also the interreligious aspect, owing to the increasing number of migrants of other religions, in particular Muslims” (EMCC No. 3)[4]. We cannot ignore the fact that “recent times have witnessed a growing increase in the presence of immigrants of other religions in traditionally Christian countries” (EMCC No. 59). The great diversity of immigrants’ cultural and religious origin poses new challenges and leads toward new goals, putting dialogue at the heart of pastoral care in the world of migration. After all, it certainly is part of the mission of the Church.

The instruction “Erga Migrantes Caritas Christi” carefully proposes programs that are appropriate for the various phases in the life of the migrant. It distinguishes “between assistance in a general sense (a first, short-term welcome), true welcome in the full sense (longer-term projects) and integration (an aim to be pursued constantly over a long period and in the true sense of the word)” (No. 42). In this case, it is important to give a sensible direction to an issue of great significance. I am referring to the difficult concept of integration, and its even more difficult application, keeping in mind also its ecumenical and interreligious aspects, particularly in societies hosting migrants. This concept is being seriously analyzed. We refuse to see it as a process of assimilation, but stress the aspect of cultural meeting and legitimate exchange. We are practically insisting on a concept of intercultural societies, meaning those that are capable of interacting and producing mutual enrichment, going beyond multiculturalism, that can be contented with a mere juxtaposition of cultures[5].

This gradual itinerary — as I was saying — provides, first of all, for “assistance or ‘first welcome’” (EMCC No. 43), but this is not enough to express the authentic vocation to Christian agape, also because it might be confused with philanthropy.

As a result, our instruction offers a wider horizon, providing for “acts of welcome in its full sense, which aim at the progressive integration and self-sufficiency of the immigrant” (ibid.). Here, too, we cannot fail to consider the ecumenical and interreligious dimensions.

In his Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees this year, Benedict XVI stated that the Church, through its various institutions and associations, “has opened centers where migrants are listened to, houses where they are welcomed, offices for services offered to persons and families, with other initiatives set up to respond to the growing needs in this field”.[6]

Also through these services in the context of human mobility, the Church offers its assistance to everyone, without distinction of religion or nationality, respecting everyone’s inalienable dignity as a human person, created in the image of God and redeemed by the blood of Christ.

In assisting migrants, therefore, it is possible to deepen ecumenical dialogue since contact with those among them who belong to other Churches or ecclesial communities gives “new possibilities of living ecumenical fraternity in practical day-to-day life and of achieving greater reciprocal understanding between Churches and ecclesial communities, something far from facile irenicism or proselytism” (EMCC No. 56). In fact, when migrants arrive in a place with a Catholic majority, the first meeting point should be hospitality and solidarity, within the context of “an authentic culture of welcome (cf. EEu 101 and 103) capable of accepting the truly human values of the immigrants over and above any difficulties caused by living together with persons who are different (cf. EEu 85, 112 and PaG 65)” (EMCC No. 39).

Therefore “the entire Church in the host country must feel concerned and engaged regarding immigrants. This means that local Churches must rethink pastoral care, programming it [ … appropriately for] today’s new multicultural and plurireligious context. With the help of social and pastoral workers, the local population should be made aware of the complex problems of migration and the need to oppose baseless suspicions and offensive prejudices against foreigners” (EMCC No. 41).

However, ecumenical dialogue does not stop there. It could also take the form of a specifically ecumenical cooperation, whereby resources are pooled and a common Christian witness is given (cf. Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism, No. 162). Indeed the different Churches and ecclesial communities are particularly intent on welcoming and accompanying all migrants, in the pastoral sense, especially when alongside the flow of regular migrants, there are irregular migrants who are a cause for concern and are usually and unjustly blamed for crimes. Also, there are unscrupulous evildoers, who speculate on the tragic situation of people and promote the trafficking of human beings. Their presence increases xenophobia and at times provokes manifestations of racism (cf. EMCC nos. 29 e 41). All this can make the ecumenical commitment in favor of migrants more difficult.

The Church is called upon to open a dialogue with everyone, but this “dialogue should be conducted and implemented in the conviction that the Church is the ordinary means of salvation and that she alone possesses the fullness of the means of salvation” (EMCC 59). At the same time, migrants of other religions “should be helped insofar as possible to preserve a transcendent view of life” (ibid.).

There are surely some values in common between the Christian faith and other beliefs, but it is necessary to take into consideration the fact that “beside these points of agreement there are, however, also divergences, some of which have to do with legitimate acquisitions of modern life and thought” (EMCC No. 66). On the part of the migrant, therefore, the first step to take toward the host society is to respect the laws and the values on which that society is founded, including religious ones. If this is not done, then integration would just be an empty word.

The Church is also called to live fully its own identity, without renouncing to give witness to its own faith, also in view of respectfully proclaiming it (cf. EMCC No. 9). Thus, dialogue with others “requires Catholic communities receiving immigrants to appreciate their own identity even more, prove their loyalty to Christ, know the contents of the faith well, rediscover their missionary calling and thus commit themselves to bear witness for Jesus the Lord and his gospel. This is the necessary prerequisite for the correct attitude of sincere dialogue, open and respectful of all but at the same time neither naïve nor ill-equipped” (EMCC No. 60).[7]

Finally, it is necessary to take into account the important principle of reciprocity[8], “understood not merely as an attitude for making claims but as a relationship based on mutual respect and on justice in juridical and religious matters. Reciprocity is also an attitude of heart and spirit that enables us to live together everywhere with equal rights and duties. Healthy reciprocity will urge each one to become an ‘advocate’ for the rights of minorities when his or her own religious community is in the majority. In this respect we should also recall the numerous Christian migrants in lands where the majority of the population is not Christian and where the right to religious freedom is severely restricted or repressed” (EMCC No. 64).

It remains true, however, that solidarity, cooperation, international interdependence and the equitable distribution of the goods of the earth show the need to operate also in ecumenical communion, or rather, with a vision of “ecumene” in the broad sense of the term. This has to be done in depth and forcefully, especially in the areas where migration flows originate, so that the inequalities that induce people, individually or collectively, to leave their own natural and cultural environment would be overcome (cf. EMCC nos. 4; 8-9; 39-43). On its part, the Church will not stop encouraging everyone, but particularly the members of Christian communities, to be authentically available and open to others, including migrants, as it affirms that “notwithstanding the repeated failures of human projects, noble as they may have been, Christians, roused by the phenomenon of mobility, [should] become aware of their call to be always and repeatedly a sign of fraternity and communion in the world, by respecting differences and practicing solidarity, in their ethics of meeting others” (EMCC No. 102).

To conclude, we have to acknowledge that migration is a process in constant evolution. It will continue to be present in the development of societies and will bring us more and more into an intercultural world, where legitimate diversity will be lived also in the context of ecumenical and interreligious dialogue.

— — —

[1] Cf. Benedict XVI, Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2006: 18_world-migrants-day_eNo.html; A. Marchetto, “Le migrazioni: segno dei tempi”, in Pontificio Consiglio della Pastorale per i Migranti e gli Itineranti (ed.), La sollecitudine della Chiesa verso i migranti, (Quaderni Universitari, Comments to the First Part of Erga Migrantes Caritas Christ — henceforth EMCC), Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Vatican City 2005, pp. 28-40.

[2] Pius XII’s prophetic intuition regarding the pastoral care of migrants is present in the Apostolic Constitution Exsul Familia (AAS XLIV [1952] 649-704), considered the magna carta of the Church’s teaching on migration. Paul VI, in continuity with and as an application of the teaching of the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council, later issued the “motu proprio” Pastoralis migratorum cura (AAS LXI [1969] 601-603), promulgating the Instruction of the Congregation for Bishops De Pastorali migratorum cura (AAS LXI [1969] 614-643). In 1978, the Pontifical Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migration and Tourism published a Circular Letter addressed to the Episcopal Conferences, entitled Church and Human Mobility (AAS LXX [1978] 357-378): see EMCC nos. 19-33 and Pontificio Consiglio della Pastorale per i Migranti e gli Itineranti (ed.), La sollecitudine della Chiesa verso i migranti, op. cit. Cf. also A. Marchetto, “Chiesa conciliare e pastorale di accoglienza”: People on the Move XXXVIII (102, 2006), pp. 131-145.

[3] See the Pontifical Message for the World Day of Peace 2007, “The human person, the heart of peace”:

[4] In 2004, the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People published the Instruction Erga migrantes caritas Christi: AAS XCVI (2004), 762-822 (see also People on the Move XXXVI, 95, 2004, and website: migrants_doc_20040514_erga-migrantes-caritas-christi_eNo.html). Cf. comments on this Instruction by highly competent authors in People on the Move XXXVII (98, 2005), pp. 23-125, particularly on ecumenism and interreligious dialogue: pp. 45-63.

[5] Issues related to this important chapter of the pastoral care of human mobility were studied more in-depth and then published in Pontificio Consiglio della Pastorale per i Migranti e gli Itineranti (ed.), Migranti e pastorale d’accoglienza (Quaderni Universitari, Comments to the Second Part of EMCC), Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Vatican City 2006.

[6] Benedict XVI, Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2007: holy_father/benedict_xvi/messages/peace/documents/hf_ben-xvi_mes_20061208_xl-world-day-peace_en.html.

[7] Cf. Proceedings of the XVII Plenary Session of our Pontifical Council, held from May 15 to 17, 2006, on the theme “Migration and Itinerancy from and toward Islamic majority countries”: People on the Move XXXVIII (101 Suppl., 2006). Specifically regarding interreligious dialogue, see pp. 187-224. Particularly important is No. 11 of the conclusions and recommendations: “It was also deemed vital to distinguish between what the receiving societies can and cannot tolerate in Islamic culture, what can be respected or shared with regard to followers of other religions (see EMCC 65 and 66), and to have the possibility of giving indications in this regard also to policymakers, toward a proper formulation of civil legislation, with due respect for each one’s competence”: ibid., p. 74.

[8] Also Benedict XVI mentioned this in his address to the participants in the aforementioned XVII Plenary Session: loc. cit., p. 5.

“To Reveal Christ the Healer”
ROME, JULY 21, 2007 ( Here is the text of an message written by Cardinal Javier  Lozano Barragán, the president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry on the profile of the Catholic teacher of medicine.

* * *



It is a very drawn out task to establish the profile of the Catholic teacher of Medicine. It involves understanding what a teacher is, what a teacher of medicine is, and knowing what it means to describe them as Catholic.

In the following reflection I will especially look at the term “Catholic.” The question has to be asked whether a non-Catholic teacher of medicine will really be different from a Catholic teacher of medicine. And, if so, of what will this difference consist?

I will try to begin by following this sequence in order to answer these questions: the teacher as the one who teaches, the teacher as professor, and the teacher as a Catholic.

To talk about a teacher is to talk about culture. Culture has been defined in very many ways; here I understand it as the humanization of nature. I understand nature to be everything outside individuals that they need to live. Education, seeing culture like this, will be the assimilation of culture. It is necessary to understand the process of culture to understand the process of education. This involves four basic stages: introspection, tradition, assimilation and progress. In introspection, individuals realize their own needs. In tradition, they see what they are offered to meet these needs. In assimilation, they meet them. And in progress, they detect new needs and proceed to create new satisfiers which they have not found in tradition.

I. The Catholic professor of medicine

1. The teacher of medicine as a “teacher”

Teachers of medicine are teachers; they teach. The word “teach” comes from a word meaning a sign. The teacher gives the students the signs that they need and must appropriate. This means that first of all the teacher has to know what the students need in order to guide them in their own introspection and to realize what their needs are.

Once the teacher has taught the students to know their own needs, they show them how they can meet these needs in tradition. This is what tends to be called a “cultural asset.”  

Having detected the “cultural asset” they also signal the way to be able to appropriate this asset and assimilate it.

They also need to signal new horizons, both in relation to needs and in relation to possible new horizons. They teach the research which leads to the “creation” of new cultural assets as something necessary.

Consequently, medical culture consists of the humanization of medicine, and medical education consists of the assimilation of the humanization of medicine. The task of the teacher of medicine is to signal to the medical student how to assimilate the humanization of medicine.

Following the steps of all culture, in the introspection stage, the teacher of medicine needs to signal to the students the path so that it is the students themselves who find the needs that they have, which lead them to seek the medical tradition as a satisfier of these needs. Here we can see firstly whether or not the students have the aptitude to learn medical culture. If their needs, which are related to their abilities, are not those which are fulfilled with medical culture, the teacher should indicate to the possible student that they should not be educated in a culture that they do not need, or for which they are not capable.

Having passed the introspection step in medical culture, the teacher of medicine should signal the medical tradition. This is the whole set of medical “cultural assets” that exist. Here we find the complex field of medical science, technology and art. The teacher of medicine should have a command of this field, or, given the complexity of current medical know-how, at least the specialty that they are teaching.

In addition to scientific and technical competence, the teacher of medicine, like any other teacher, should be an expert in educational science, especially in Didactics, as when “teaching,” they should do so with such clarity that the students can find the medical cultural asset that they are being shown. The teacher of medicine thus tackles the third step of culture, assimilation. It is not sufficient to teach medical culture; rather it is necessary to indicate to the students the practical path which has to be taken to have a command of it.  

Once the teacher of medicine has completed this third step, they should open up subsequent paths for the students to recognize subsequent medical needs and, based on that already existing, to succeed in “creating” new medical cultural assets in the future. In particular, they should indicate the paths of medical progress, and how their students should move along these previously unexplored paths.  

2. The teacher of medicine as a professor

In addition to a teacher, the teacher of medicine should be a professor, and here we expand our thoughts to enter the field of the Catholic teacher of medicine. As teachers, to a certain extent, they share their personality with any other teacher of medicine, of whatever mentality or ideology. As a professor, it is different.

Indeed, the word professor contains a religious connotation, as it comes from the verb to profess, which means adherence to a faith and its profession. If the teacher just remains at the level of teacher, they will be frustrated and so will their students. They signal health and life sciences and technology but, being realistic, they indicate that the whole of medical science and technology finally lose the battle, because death arrives and, in the face of death, all medical science and technology are shown to be impotent and fail. Being sincere with themselves and with their students, at the levels of introspection and assimilation of medicine to overcome disease, they should signal the ultimate failure of all medical science, technology and art, as death can be found at the end of all their efforts.

Only if they are capable of signaling, together with the same medicine and in a way from it, the overcoming of death, does their teaching have a lasting value and is not lost in just delaying the end as much as possible.

For this they must go beyond the mere level of the teacher and truly become a professor. To profess a faith which opens up health and life to transcendence.

3. The teacher of medicine as a Catholic professor

If the professor of medicine is a Catholic, then this transcendence and this victory over death are not merely beautiful desires which, for many, in our secularized culture, do not go beyond good intentions and palliatives for the failure of death, but rather they are based on the same reality of an irrefutable historical event, the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

On professing this faith, the teacher of medicine becomes a triumphant professor. He and his students advance toward medical culture with the certainty and the joy of knowing that the progress in health science is a foretaste of the full health that they will find for themselves and for their patients in the resurrected Christ.

It is obvious that this is incomprehensible for those who do not profess this faith. For a physician who does not have faith in Christ and in his Church, nothing here means anything, and rather it is something absurd which would appear to be for ignorant and mad people as it goes against the biological experimental knowledge which they believe to be the only one valid in medicine: “evidence-based medicine.” However, here is another type of evidence, even stronger than laboratory evidence, the evidence of a faith based on an irrefutable fact which is reached for the same reason, but which arises from a free and firm decision of the will of each person. St Paul already said that the announcement of a crucified Messiah was offensive for the Jews and madness for the Gentiles, but it is much wiser than all human wisdom, and what may seem to be weakness in God, is stronger than all human strength (1 Corinthians 1:23-25).

In accordance with this profession of faith, what then should a Catholic professor of medicine be like? The answer is to teach how a physician should be who is not frustrated but rather who opens up health science and technology, the art of curing, toward the full victory over death in the resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord. A Catholic professor of medicine is one who teaches, signals, to their students, how to be a Catholic physician.

Below I propose a few lines which set out the figure of the Catholic physician and which can be used as a basis for a Catholic professor of medicine to signal to their students how to be a Catholic physician.

II. The Catholic physician

I take as the basis the Charter for Health Care Workers published by the Pontifical Council for the Health Pastoral Care, which in turn refers to the thought of God’s Servant John Paul II in this respect and from the identity expressed by the Pope, and in it I try to put together a few ideas to interpret and discuss it.


The Catholic physician is described as follows in the Charter for Health Care Workers:

The Catholic physician’s profession requires them to be a custodian and server of human life. They should do this through a watchful and solicitous presence with the sick. The medical and healthcare activity is based on an interpersonal relationship. It is an encounter between trust and conscience. The trust of a man marked by suffering and disease who trusts in another man who can take care of his need and who is going to go to him to assist him, care for him and heal him.

The patient is not just a clinical case, but rather a sick man toward whom the physician should adopt an attitude of sincere sympathy, suffering together with him, through personal participation in the specific situations of the individual patient. Sickness and suffering are phenomena which, when dealt with in depth, go beyond medicine and deal with the essence of the human condition in this world.  

The physician who cares for them must be aware that the whole of humanity is involved, and that complete dedication is required. This is their mission, and is the fruit of a call or vocation that the physician hears, personified in the suffering and invoking face of the patient who trusts in their care. Here the physician’s mission to give life is linked to the life of Christ, who came to give life and to give it in abundance (Jn 10,10). This life transcends the physical life, to reach the height of the Holy Trinity. It is the new and eternal life that consists of communion with the Father to whom every man is called freely in the Son, through the work of the Holy Spirit.

The physician is like the Good Samaritan who stops by the side of the sick man to become his neighbor, because of his understanding and sympathy, in short because of his charity. The physician thus shares the love of God as an instrument of diffusion and at the same time becomes infected with the love of God for man.

This is the therapeutic charity of Christ who went around doing good and healing all (Acts 10:38). At the same time, it is the charity toward Christ represented in each patient. It is he who is cured in each man or woman, “I was sick, and you looked after me,” as the Lord will say in the Last Judgment (Matthew 25:31-40).

It thus results that the physicians’ identity is the identity received from their therapeutic ministry, their ministry of life. They collaborate with God in the recovery of health in the sick person’s body. The Church accepts the work of the physician as part of its ministry, as it considers the service to sick people to be an integral part of its mission. It knows that physical harm imprisons the spirit, and the evil of the spirit overpowers the body. Through their therapeutic ministry, physicians thus share in the pastoral and evangelizing action of the Church. The paths that they should take are those marked by the dignity of the human being and therefore by Moral law, especially when it is a question of practising their activity in the field of Biogenetics and Biotechnology. Bioethics will provide a channel for them, outlining their principles of action.[1]


A short summary of the Christian identity of the physician can be found in this position of the Pontifical Council for the Health Pastoral Care. As already mentioned, I will strive to reflect on this identity, paying particular attention to the fact that it is an identity received from a vocation and a mission which founds a very special ministry, the therapeutic ministry, the ministry of life, the ministry of health.

The Vocation and the Church

We can begin by referring to the meaning of a vocation in the Church. Etymologies often help to take us back to the original meaning of the words that we use frequently and which appear to be weakened through use. One of them is the word Church. There are two etymologies, the Greek and the Latin. Its Greek etymology takes us to the verb “ekkalein,” to call. The Church, “ekklesia,” would be the plural participle of the verb “ekkalein,” and would mean those who have been called.

Looking from the Latin etymological perspective, the Church is the effect of the “Vocation.” The “Vocation,” etymologically speaking, is the nominalized Latin acceptance of the Latin verb “vocare,” to call, (the same as “ekkalein”) and would this mean the same calling which brings together those who have been called, that is which congregates them in the Church. The vocation thus makes the Church.  

The only “Vocation” or fundamental calling is the one made by God with the Word with which he calls into existence everything that exists, and this calling, this primitive “vocation,” is Christ, who is the Word of God through which everything that exists and each of us is called into existence (cf. Ephesians 1:3-10; Colossians 1:15-20). It is especially interesting to see that God’s maximum way to call everything that exists, the maximum presence of Christ in the world, is through the Eucharist, as it is the memorial, the presence of Christ in the present of history (cf. Luke 22:19).

In this calling from God, we discover three essential moments which make it up and which we can summarize in three words: “BEING,” “WITH,” “FOR.” We are thus called to be (to exist), with God, for others.

We can verify this in Christ’s call to his apostles (Mark 3:14-15), and most especially his call to the Virgin Mary to be the Mother of God, the Messiah (Luke 1:26-38). But it is a paradigm that spreads throughout the history of Salvation.

We are going to use these three words of the Vocation as a guideline to reflect on the pontifical doctrine on the identity of the Catholic physician which we set out in the Charter of the Pontifical Council.  

1. “BEING”

When we talk about “Being” in the vocation, we are talking about total existence. God speaks and everything begins to exist. Genesis says: “God said, Let there be light. And there was light … (1:3). When God  pronounces his Word, it is practical: he does what he says, and everything has its consistency, its beginning and its end, its totality, in it.

When we talk about true Catholic physicians, they are so because of a true vocation received from the same God from which they receive their whole existence, obviously without excluding the same physician’s collaboration with the calling. How does God call the physician to the medical vocation, and of what does this vocation consist? Below we offer some characteristics of the ” being” of this calling.

1.1. The profession

Firstly, we will say that God calls the physician for a profession which is not the same as for a trade. Historically, three professions are recognized, that of the priest, that of the physician and that of the ruler or judge. It should be noted that, as we said earlier, the profession is somewhat linked to the profession of the faith, is something religious. The profession is not strictly speaking something legal, as what is legal may or may not be carried out, or changed depending on the will of those who take on an obligation. On the contrary, the profession is an obligation and a responsibility which is contracted with God himself. It is a responsibility and responsibility originally meant the capacity to respond, and respond comes from the Greek “Spenden” which originally meant to offer a sacrifice of libation to God. Medical professional responsibility means a commitment (Commitment is “syngrafein” in Greek, which means to write together), which is written jointly by man and God.

This sacred nature of the medical profession led to the Hippocratic oath, which is the oath not to harm the patient, to always do good to them and to look after all stages of life, an oath which is not a promise made to the patient, but rather directly to God. In this context the physician’s vocation is a vocation which is born from the love of God, and it is God that the physician follows in this profession, as extremely benevolent Good.[2]   

1.2. The love of God in the physician

However, despite the sublime nature of this Hippocratic position, it is limited and defective. We were talking about the love of God, but this love, in accordance with the classical Greek mentality, the mentality of Socrates and Plato, which Hippocrates shared, is defective because it presupposes need and is never plenitude. Indeed, for classical Greek philosophy, God does not love. He is extremely benevolent, but he does not love, as love would mean a lack and God cannot lack anything. Love is only characteristic of the needy man interested in sating himself, not of God the All-perfect. In Greek mythology, love arises from Poros and Penia in Aphrodite’s wedding. Poros represents expediency, need, and Penia, poverty; on bringing together need and poverty, love is born as self-interested desire.

This mentality is completely corrected by the divine Revelation: God himself is Love. This is the deepest definition of God. His love does not consist of him lacking something, but rather of the greatest circulation of his kindness, which is presented is such a way that God the Father loves the world that he created so much that, out of his love for it, he gives his one and only Son in death (John 3:16).

The Christian medical profession is therefore centered on love, but not on self-interested and poor, Hippocratic, love, but rather it imitates the perfect love of God and has its paradigm in the Good Samaritan, thus suffering together with the sick, pitying them and providing them with everything they need to cure them. The Good Samaritan is thus the example to be imitated by the Christian physician. The Good Samaritan is the figure of Christ who takes pity on the whole of sick and fallen humanity, and raises it up to deification. He is infinite love and is in both those who love and those who are loved. He is in both as plenitude. The Good Samaritan is thus the figure which identifies the physician who takes pity to such an extent on their patient that they do everything they can to return them to health, out of love of plenitude.[3]

Talking about the love that physicians must have for God and thus for their patients, Pope Pius XII talks to us about the commandments of the law of God in the sphere of medicine. He talks to us about the first commandment which is to love God above all else and about the second which is to love your neighbor like yourself, and the identity of physicians consists of this love when their relations with the patient are surrounded by humanity and understanding, gentleness and devotion.

The same Pope Pius XII complements the characteristics of the physician on referring to two other commandments in particular, the fifth, “you shall not murder” and the eighth, “you shall not give false testimony.”[4]

1.3. Respect for and Defense of Life

The fifth commandment reminds us how the identity of the Christian physician means that, because of the love they are obliged to have for God and for their patient, they are totally obliged to defend life at any of its stages, but especially at the stages at which it feels the weakest, which are the initial and the terminal stages. Their personality is formed from a clear and absolute no to abortion and no to euthanasia. The whole meaning of human life is contained in the fifth commandment, as a gift given by God to be merely administered by man and by woman, and which should only have its origin in marriage.

1.4. Medical training

The eighth commandment, “you shall not give false testimony,” tells us about the physician’s clear commitment to the truth, both to the truth of disease and of health, and to the truth of medical science.[5]

The physician’s identity comes from the training that they receive. However, if we look at what is occurring in many Faculties of Medicine, we can see that this training has many defects. Indeed, the curriculum of the medical degree has two essential parts. The first is the basic knowledge and the second is the knowledge that is obtained from the clinical science divided into disciplines or from a consideration of the different organs of the human body. It is obvious that these subjects should be taught, but at the same time it is noted that there is a bio-technical reductionism. On presenting the subjects, their anthropocentric value and the ethical, affective and existential values have been lost. The physician is seen from the requirements of the patient and the demands of an economicist health system with complete indifference for the violations of human rights, especially human life.

We often find as a paradigm of the current clinical applications a fragmentation and reduction of the patient to organs and biological or technological functions and to medicines. The intention is to obtain a command of fragmented specialized knowledge without the perspective of the whole, through knowledge and relational competence with other human fields outside medicine. The idea of health is proposed as a passive adaptation to pathogenic stimuli and to those of a bio-physical nature. The adaptation of the clinic is carried out with often exclusive reference to the requirements, even of an economic nature, of the national health system. A loss of the ethical values in medicine and the anonymity of the patients are observed. It is even seen that little value is given to the existential aspects of the medical profession, to the person of the patient, of the physician and of the nurse.

In the face of these problems of the medical “being” from the beginning of the training that is received, a series of methods has been conceived to make the teaching active, especially from the so-called PBL (Problem-Based Learning) and the teaching method oriented toward the community which sees the physician as a necessarily competent person on a relational and scientific level, inserted in a community reality, capable of collaborating with other health figures and of administering the resources available with continuing learning, always an advocate of the patient’s health, capable of combining knowledge with medical practice, and therefore with continuing training.

This kind of medical training would offer a new understanding of health and of disease. It would deal with prevention and the handling of the disease in the context of the individuality of the patient complemented by their own family and society as a whole. It would thus develop a learning based more on curiosity and continuous investigation than on passive acquisitions. It would reduce the information load. It would encourage direct contact with the patients through a personalized analysis of their problems and of the whole of their curriculum.

A program should therefore be prepared which is based on the following principles: 1. Existence of a comprehensive and ultimate meaning of medical knowledge. 2. Definition of its epistemological orientation. 3. Definition of the values, the motivations, the psychological maturity, the quality of the objective knowledge and the methodological, relational and technical capacities, applied to the exercising of the profession. 4. Definition of the values, the motivations, the capacities and the quality of the training of the teachers. 5. Definition of the general and partial objectives of the training. 6. Definition of the teaching methods. These principles contain the epistemological knowledge of present-day medicine which considers health as a psycho-biological construction determined by the possibility and the quality of the person’s resources and whose aim is to give a single response to the fundamental questions of human existence.[6]

1.5. Lifelong learning

The physician’s identity is not shaped once and for all in their initial training, but rather is prolonged in their lifelong learning. It demands a very careful preparation of students of medicine, but at the same time requires the continuing and progressive preparation of the lecturers who teach any medical subject, a preparation that should never be lacking. The lecturers in particular have the responsibility to promote new physicians, and they will never achieve this if they are not sure of each student’s capacity to carry out such a delicate mission.

The same eighth commandment obliges all physicians to keep professional secrecy and, as we have already mentioned, to have a sound medical culture which should be improved constantly through lifelong learning.[7]

2. “WITH”

We said that the second characteristic of the Christian vocation is expressed with the preposition “with,” with God. That is to say that any vocation is to be with God our Lord, who prepares man to carry out a mission which, without his strength, it would be pointless to carry out. In the book of Exodus we can read what Moses says to God on mount Horeb: “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt, and God said: I will be with you …” (Exodus 3:12).

2.1. Revelation of Christ the physician

In this section we set out the deepest values that should shape the identity of the Catholic physician. The personality of the Christian physician is identified with the revelation of Christ the physician. Christ sent his apostles to cure all ailment and disease and said to them, I will be with you to the end of the age (Mark 16:17; Matthew 28:20). The physician performs the therapeutic ministry in this way, beside the apostles, as a continuation of the mission of Christ and with his revelation.

The whole breadth of this revelation should be understood. The physician should reveal the whole life of Christ, which is the presence of Christ in the physician. Because Christ cures all ailments and disease with all his action taken as a whole. The miracle cures that he performed, including the resurrection of the dead, were not definitive in his struggle against the evil that exists in humanity, against its ailments and death, but rather just a sign of the profound reality that entails his own death and resurrection.

2.2. Pain

He took all suffering, all ailments, all disease, without exception, and summarized them in his own death as the death of God who had become man, so that no pain would remain outside, and from his death he exploited death itself, he conquered it in the plenitude of his resurrection. One of the physician’s main doubts is always the problem of pain. This question only has its answer here, when pain does not appear as something negative, but rather as a positivity which, it is true, ends in death, but in a death full of resurrection.  

The physician should thus cure, revealing the death and the resurrection of Christ. An identification of the physician as such, as a healer, with Christ the healer, is necessary for this revelation. This identification is now carried out especially through the Eucharist and through the other sacraments. The sacraments are the historic presence of Christ in the present, at the specific moment that we are crossing in life.

2.3. Health

Consequently, the physician should realize that health is complexive and bodily health should not be talked about as something radically different from the complete health that we call eternal health or salvation. The physician’s ministry is therefore an ecclesiastic ministry which is directed toward the salvation of man from his body, but which involves other aspects.

We thus describe health as a dynamic tension toward physical, mental, social and spiritual harmony and not just the absence of disease, which prepares men to carry out the mission with which God has entrusted them, in accordance with the stage of life at which they are.

The physician’s mission is therefore to ensure that this dynamic tension toward complete harmony exists, as required at each stage of the life of this specific man who is their patient, so that they can carry out the mission with which God has entrusted them. Thus, the contradiction of reducing the medical function to the single physical and chemical aspect of the disease. This function is complete and moreover cannot be static, but rather should be inserted within the dynamism of the patients who tend toward their own harmony.

In this context, death is not a frustration for the physician, but rather a triumph, as they have accompanied their patient in such a way that they have been able to use their talents to the full at each stage of their life. When it has reached its end, the medical function ends, not with a cry of impotence, but rather with the satisfaction of a mission fulfilled, both by the patient and by the physician.

Thus, the physician truly is with Christ and their profession is identified in this communion with Christ, and then the physician joins together with our Father God like a son with his father, and their professional love becomes the action of the Love of God in himself, which is the Holy Spirit. A Christian physician is therefore one who is always guided by the Holy Spirit. From the Holy Spirit and with the Holy Spirit is all the sympathy that must exist between the physician and the patient, all the due humanization of medicine and all the demand for updating and lifelong learning, as the Love of the Holy Spirit makes the physician an essentially open person for the rest, as they are obliged to do so before God because of their profession of Faith represented by their medical profession. We thus succeed in outlining the third trait of the medical identity, being for others, is the “FOR” of their vocation and of their professional identity.

3. “FOR”

When God chose Moses, it is very clear that he did so to remove his people from the power of the Egyptians. God says, “I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians” (Exodus 3:8).

Physicians cannot withdraw into themselves. They cannot simply think that they already have enough money, that they do not need to work any more, and that therefore they will now leave their profession. A true physician is a physician for life. If they have truly received this vocation, they will have it for ever and they must practice it for humanity as a mission specifically received for the good of all, and for which they must account to God when He says to them, “I was sick, and you looked after me” (Matthew 25:36,43).

3.1. Openness to the patient

We said that love of the medical profession imitates the love of God which is disseminated. Physicians cannot hide their knowledge in pure theories and laboratories, but rather should expand them in favor of the community. They have received the gift of taking care of life and making it grow. Their vocation is for life, never for death, which would be to blind the mission with which God has entrusted each human being. According to Pope John Paul II, nowadays the religious ministry is connected to the therapeutic ministry of physicians in the affirmation of human life and of all those specific contingencies in which life itself can be endangered by deliberate human will. Their deepest identity involves being ministers of life and never instruments of death. This is the most intimate nature of their noble profession. They are called to humanize medicine and the places where they practice it, and to use the most advanced technologies for life and not for death, always having Christ, the physician of bodies and of souls, as their supreme model.[8]

According to Pope Pius XII, Catholic physicians should place their knowledge, their strengths, their heart and their devotion at the disposal of the sick. They should understand that they and their patients are subject to the will of God. Medicine is a reflection of the goodness of God. They should help the sick to accept their illness, and they should make sure they are not dazzled by technology and use the gifts that God has given them and not give in to the pressure to assaults on life. They should remain firm in the face of the temptations of materialism.[9]

The good physician must therefore have dianoetic virtues and skills and convert them into virtuosity, that is to say into a habit, so that both the virtues of theoretical science and those of practice come together in them as if they were second nature.[10]

3.2. Fundamental qualities of the physician

The fundamental qualities of the physician have thus been classified under 5 sections: Awareness of responsibility, humbleness, respect, love and truthfulness. Awareness of responsibility leads them to work with the patient and be aware that it is the physician who gives the direction. Humbleness tells them that physicians look after their patients and not the opposite. Humbleness makes them see themselves as indebted to the patient. Physicians cannot talk about “their” patients, but rather the patients will talk about “their” physician. Physicians should receive their patients as written on the lintel of an old German hospital: “recipere quasi Christum”; they should receive their patients as if they were Christ himself. 

Respect and love for the patient, about which we have already spoken, are the basis for their humbleness. They know that they have received a mission for which they do not have the necessary strength, but rather they receive it from the person who sends it for this reason. Truthfulness entails being aware of the great trust that the patient places in them on revealing their personal matters. Truthfulness is required in the diagnosis and in the therapy, not just on the bodily but also on the complete, mental, social, psychic, spiritual level. They should never experiment on the patient if this involves a danger disproportionate to the good that they intend to do. This must be absolutely necessary and the patient must agree to it. They should notify the patient of the development of their illness, tell them the truth about their condition in the most appropriate way and at the most appropriate time possible. They should complement their action with the action of the priest as both missions, that of the priest and that of the physician, are closely connected.[11]

3.3. Portrait of the physician

The “Portrait of the perfect physician,” described by Enrique Jorge Enriquez in 16th century Spain in the flowery language of the time, is still current: “The physician should be fearful of the Lord and very humble, and not haughty and arrogant, and be charitable to the poor, meek, kind, affable and not vengeful. They should maintain secrecy, should not be talkative or gossipy, flattering or envious. They should be prudent, restrained, not be too audacious … should be distinguished and given to honesty and reserved. They should work on their skill and flee from idleness. They should be a well-read physician and should know how to give information about everything.”[12]

Nowadays, we would talk about medical excellence. This would be what Aristotle called the “Teleios iatrós” (perfect physician), or Galen called “Aristós iatrós” (best physician).

3.4. Morality and Law

Initially we said that the medical profession is something that goes beyond the Law and is positioned in the framework of Morality, and this is true, but this does not mean that we can do without medical Law. Medical Law without adequate morality would be arbitrariness based on shameful interests. Morality without medical Law would just be general principles without direct application. The rules of medical Law must be sufficiently clear and brief to aid the physician’s action. The leading principle is always the same: the physician’s purpose is to help and to heal, not to do harm or to kill.

It is worth mentioning in particular the field of Ethics, the field of Morality, in which the physician must be competent, but in which so often they are not specialists. Bioethical committees are therefore required in each health centre, and should also be created in the teaching centers, in open dialogue with the specialists in the different subjects taught.

Physicians are thus trained to bear witness to God in all the medical, trade union and political environments, etc. They can even be valid bearers of ecumenical dialogue and dialogue with other religions, as sickness does not know religious barriers. The physician will thus actively belong to the Church as an individual person and as a group.[13]

3.5. Teamwork

In order to carry out such a demanding mission, physicians cannot stay enclosed in their own individuality, but rather should first open up to other physicians and be sufficiently humble to work in collaboration and as a team, both on strictly physiological matters, and especially on those relational matters connected to fields of which they do not necessarily have a command and which to a certain extent are outside their competence, namely sociological, anthropological and political aspects, and those from technical fields beyond their profession, namely everything connected to the strictly computing field.

In a certain way, within this opening-up, in the Spanish field of medicine what two authors call the decalogue of the new physician is designed. They express it like this: 1. Multidisciplinary teamwork with a single person ultimately responsible. 2. The more scientific the professional, the better. 3. The human aspects will be strengthened in professional practice. 4. Action will be adapted to agreed scientific diagnostic and therapeutic protocols. 5. They will be aware of the expense. In addition to the protocols, they will use guides to good practice. 6. They shall aid coexistence and solidarity with work colleagues and with the patients. 7. They shall think that all healthcare acts can involve a preventive action, and even a promotion of health. 8. They shall bear in mind at all times the need to care for the satisfaction of the user of the service. 9. The Patient Service Units will be strengthened, circulating the complaints and suggestions which arise among the people affected. Frequent opinion surveys will be held. 10. It will be essential to apply ethical principles to the professional activities.[14]


Being a Catholic physician is a ministry which arises from a vocation in the Church. It is a therapeutic ministry. It is closely linked to God our Father, revealed in Christ the physician, full of the Love which is the Holy Spirit. Being a physician is a path to achieve the plenitude of the human being, to initiate the resurrection already. It involves proximity and a special intimacy with God, and at the same time represents an opening-up and a complete gift to others. This is the Catholic identity of the physician, to reveal Christ the healer.

Being a Catholic professor of medicine is to have far-reaching sight to be able to see the resurrection in death. It is not just this, though. It is the ability to sense a harmonious tension in health which leads to plenitude, in accordance with the different stages of the life of people. And it is to feel in medical science, technology and skills the all-powerful force of God who resurrects his Son Jesus Christ and who already gives us a foretaste of the resurrection in medical progress. Being a Catholic professor of medicine is to teach the Love with which the Holy Spirit delivers Jesus Christ on the cross to the Father, who with his loving strength brings him back to life. Being a Catholic professor of medicine is to teach the physician to be the loving caress of God who looks after his children in sickness and in death, making their condition more bearable for them and opening up for them a complete expectation of health which will not now be tension toward harmony, but rather the total harmony of love. Being a Catholic professor of medicine is to teach the physician to be the revelation of Christ the healer.

Vatican City, 15 April, 2007.

+ Javier Card. Lozano Barragán
President, Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry