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Pope Francis: Nurses Are The Guardians Of Life

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Pope Francis: Nurses Are The Guardians Of Life

Message of His Holiness Pope Francis
International Nurses Day
12 May 2020

Dear brothers and sisters,

Today we celebrate International Nurses Day, in the context of the International Year of Nurses and Midwives officially declared by the World Health Organization.  At this same time, we observe the bicentennial of the birth of Florence Nightingale, the pioneer of modern nursing.

At this critical moment, marked by the global health emergency caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, we have rediscovered the fundamental importance of the role being played by nurses and midwives.  Every day we witness the testimony of courage and sacrifice of healthcare workers, and nurses in particular, who, with professionalism, self-sacrifice, and a sense of responsibility and love for neighbour, assist people affected by the virus, even to the point of putting their own health at risk.  Sadly, this can be seen in the high number of healthcare workers who have died as a result of their faithful service.  I pray for them – the Lord knows each of them by name – and for all the victims of this epidemic.  May the Risen Lord grant to each of them the light of heaven and to their families the consolation of faith.

Nurses have historically played a central role in health care.  Every day, in their contact with the sick, they experience the trauma caused by suffering in people’s lives.  They are men and women who have chosen to say “yes” to a very special vocation: that of being good Samaritans who are concerned for the life and suffering of others.  They are guardians and preservers of life, who, even as they administer necessary treatments, offer courage, hope and trust.

Dear nurses, moral responsibility is the hallmark of your professional service, which cannot be reduced to scientific-technical knowledge alone, but must be constantly inspired by your human and humanizing relationship with the sick.  “Taking care of women and men, of children and elderly, in every phase of their life, from birth to death, you are tasked with continuous listening, aimed at understanding what the needs of that patient are, in the phase that he or she is experiencing.  Before the uniqueness of each situation, indeed, it is never enough to follow a protocol, but a constant – and tiresome! – effort of discernment and attention to the individual person is required”.

Carrying out the mission of Jesus

Nurses are amongst the Saints next door, said the Pope. “You are an image of the Church as a ‘field hospital’ that continues to carry out the mission of Jesus Christ, who drew near to and healed people with all kinds of sickness and who stooped down to wash the feet of his disciples. Thank you for your service to humanity”, he added.

Healthcare provision

Addressing leaders of nations throughout the world, Pope Francis noted that in many countries the pandemic has also brought to light a number of “deficiencies” in the provision of healthcare. He asked that leaders “invest in healthcare as the primary common good by strengthening its systems and employing greater numbers of nurses, so as to ensure adequate care to everyone, with respect for the dignity of each person”.

He expressed the importance of enhancing nurses and midwives’ professionalism and involvement with the suitable “scientific, human, psychological and spiritual tools” necessary for their training, “so that they can carry out their service in full dignity”.

The role of the associations

The Pope noted that in this regard, associations of healthcare workers play an important role. “In addition to offering comprehensive training, they support their individual members, making them feel part of a larger body, never dismayed and alone as they face the ethical, economic and human challenges that their profession entails”.

A special word to midwives

Addressing a “special word” to midwives, Pope Francis noted that their work is amongst the most notable professions, “for it is directly dedicated to the service of life and of motherhood”. Today, too, he added, “the Holy Father looks at you with gratitude”.

Finally, Pope Francis assured all nurses and midwives of his prayers for them, their families, and all those for whom they care. Imparting his Apostolic Blessing to each of them he concluded, saying, “may this annual celebration highlight the dignity of your work for the benefit of the health of society as a whole”.


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