Congress Palliative Care

Dear Friends,

I sincerely thank dr. Larkin for the invitation to participate in this important world congress. On behalf of the Pontifical Academy for Life, I wish to extend the greeting of Pope Francis and the Catholic Church to all of you. The Pontifical Academy for several years is committed to promoting  palliative care in the world.
Professor Centeno will introduce you to the White Book soon. Now I want to emphasize a single aspect that affects the role that religions can play in the field of palliative care, both in the clinical and cultural aspects. Overall today, while we are witness of marginalization, discrimination, and the elimination of the weakest of human beings, such as those suffering from a serious, disabling or incurable disease. We want to oppose the “throw-away culture”— and we know how pervasive it is in most of contemporary society— by promoting a “palliative care culture,” that overcomes the attraction of euthanasia and assisted suicide, and that leads to the greatest possible acceptance of a culture of care that enables us to accompany the dying with love until the end.

To accomplishing this, I think we must reflect as deeply as possible about the great anthropological questions and enormous ethical challenges we face in dealing with the end of earthly life. For this reason, our efforts in this Congress will be directed to exploring what palliative care can offer to those human needs that arise from the power of the human spirit. We will take consider not only clinical experience, but also the contributions that science and the deathless truths that religions preach about mystery of humanity.

All of us recognize the important role that religions play in advancing this form of accompaniment of the sick or dying, given the ability of religions to reach the peripheries of humanity, those who in every community are in some way most in need. While this is certainly true, religions are and do
much more. Religions are not only able to facilitate a greater presence of palliative care where it is needed, but they are one of the true component  forces of palliative care itself. Total attention to the person is made much more difficult by economic hegemonies that colonize contemporary cultures and societies. The result of this situation can be only a culture, or rather anti-culture, of wastefulness.
An understanding of human existence and of reality that values religious experience allows us to see and affirm a good that surpasses and is not limited by economic calculus. Recognition of the integral openness of the person to transcendence makes it possible to state that in human life, even when it is fragile and seems to be defeated by illness, there is inalienable value. Palliative care represents a vision of man that is preached and protected by the great religious traditions. In terms of motivation and inspiration, this is the most profound and trenchant contribution palliative care can receive.

Palliative care today represents for all of us a concrete initiative within a climate of vanishing love for humanity and a crisis of social ties that beginning with a generic disengagement is now reaching a real social disintegration that involves all social structures, beginning with the family.
Societas as a communion of persons, no matter what form it takes, is necessary for self-realization of the individual. While the individual is not the servant of society, society is not merely an instrument for the selfrealization of the individual. It is rather a condition that allows for the such realization. It is difficult to make what is human develop in a society where relationships are mummified. The ego, as it is more and more conceived of by postmodernity, becomes an force for dissolution, not for bonding; exclusion, not inclusion; fluidity, not consolidation. It is therefore essential to foster not only problem-solving, which can be superficial, but also the lasting dream of a new humanism for all, and of universal Brotherhood.

Reinventing a new brotherhood is the anthropological and social challenge of our day and is the specific charge that Pope Francis gave to the Pontifical Academy for Life.
Here too, religions have a very special word to say, not onlz for religious people but for everyone. Dependency—a human condition that is a focus of religions and palliative care—is indeed human and should be appreciated, when freely chosen, as an inalienable human value. The ego finds its fulfillment in relationship, in the “we.” The “we” is no less innate in us than the “I.” It is clear that our existence is marked by a permanent movement from the “I” to the “we.” Humanism must necessarily be marked by solidarity. The task of “caring for” the other, and for creation, is very different from the false, predatory and destructive attitude so often adopted  by man—not only towards nature and the earth, but also against brothers, especially when they are perceived as obstacles or no longer useful.

In this perspective, the Pontifical Academy for Life has promoted the creation of a common manifesto of the three great monotheistic religions, – Christian, Muslim, Jews – on palliative care. The project is at an advanced stage and I hope it can be signed by the top representatives of the three great religions before the end of this year.
The palliative care community bears witness to a new way of living that focuses on the person and his good, to which not only the individual but the whole community tends. In this community the good of each person is pursued as a good that benefits everyone. Palliative care is a human right, and various international programs are working to implement it; but the basic human right is to continue to be recognized and accepted as a member of society, as part of a community.

Thank you very much for your attention!


Berlin, 23th of may