I so deeply admire Pope Francis. I admire the way that he has exhorted Christians to be messengers of healing and mercy, reject a culture of waste, and adopt a simpler life of love in harmony with the richness of Christ's Gospel.
I also care deeply for my friends, former teachers and colleagues who are working as obstetricians. I appreciate the struggles of the profession, including the responsibility of maintaining a balance of compassionate leadership and faithful service to their patients.
The Pope's loving, encouraging remarks are words that I want to remember. I want to be prepared to share similar exhortations in the future with friends who need encouragement in their walk within obstetrics.
The full translation of Pope Francis' address can be read here.
"...We witness today a paradoxical situation, regarding the medical profession. On one hand we see – and we thank God – for the advances in medicine, thanks to the work of scientists who, with passion and without sparing themselves, are dedicated to research of new cures. On the other, however, we also verify the danger that the doctor loses his identity of servant of life. The cultural disorientation has affected an ambit that seemed unassailable: yours, medicine! Although being by their nature at the service of life, the health professions are induced sometimes not to respect life itself. Instead, as the encyclical Caritas in veritate reminds us, openness to life is at the center of true development. If personal and social sensibility is lost to welcoming a new life, other forms of reception useful to social life are hardened. The reception of life tempers moral energies and makes possible mutual help. The paradoxical situation is seen in the fact that, while new rights are attributed to the person, sometimes even presumed, life is not always protected as primary value and primordial right of every man. The ultimate end of medical action always remains the defense and promotion of life.
A widespread mentality of the useful, the “throw away culture” which today enslaves the hearts and intelligences of so many, has a very high cost: it requires eliminating human beings, especially if physically or socially weaker. Our answer to this mentality is a decisive and unhesitant “yes” to life. The first right of a human person is his/her life. He/she has other goods and some of them are more precious; but life is the fundamental good, condition for all the others. Things have a price and are saleable, but persons have a dignity, they are worth more than things and they have no price. Because of this, attention to human life in its totality has become in recent times a real and proper priority of the Magisterium of the Church, particularly for life which is largely defenseless, namely, that of the disabled, the sick, the unborn, children, the elderly.
Each one of us is called to recognize in the fragile human being the face of the Lord, who in his human flesh experienced indifference and loneliness to which we often condemn the poorest, be it in developing countries, be it in well-off societies. Every unborn child, condemned unjustly to being aborted, has the face of the Lord, who before being born, and then when he was just born, experienced the rejection of the world. And every elderly person, even if he/she is sick or at the end of his/her days, bears in him/herself the face of Christ. They cannot be discarded!
...Be witnesses and propagators of this “culture of life.”...
...Dear doctor friends, you who are called to take care of human life in its initial phase, all of you must remember with facts and words, that this is always, in all its phases and at every age, sacred and is always of quality. And not because of a discourse of faith, but of reason and science! There is no human life that is more sacred than another, as there is no human life that is qualitatively more significant than another. The credibility of a health care system is not measured only by efficiency but above all by the care and love of persons, whose life is always sacred and inviolable."
~Pope Francis, September 20th, 2013
Audience with the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations