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Pope Francis’ three words for the 60th anniversary of Medicine and Surgery

05 novembre 2021

Pope Francis’ three words for the 60th anniversary of Medicine and Surgery

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Remembrance, passion and comfort. These are the three words chosen by Pope Francis in his homily on Friday 5 November in Rome on the occasion of the Holy Mass celebrated for the 60th anniversary of the inauguration of the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery at Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore. "As we commemorate with gratitude the gift of this seat of Università Cattolica, I would like to share a few thoughts about its name", the Holy Father began. "It is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, to whom this day, the first Friday of the month, is dedicated".

The celebration was attended by over 2,000 professors, students, administrative staff, doctors and health workers from the Rome branch of Università Cattolica and from Fondazione Policlinico Universitario Agostino Gemelli IRCCS, as well as numerous hospital patients, gathered in the square in front of the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery, founded on 5 November 1961, to complete Father Agostino Gemelli's project of creating a University that would place the human person at the centre of all research and training activities.

In his greeting to the Pope, the General Ecclesial Assistant of the University, H.E Monsignor Claudio Giuliodori, who concelebrated together with the secretary of the Italian Bishops' Conference, Monsignor Stefano Russo, expressed his deepest gratitude to the Holy Father for having accepted to preside over this Eucharistic celebration. "Every step in these 60 years of extraordinary growth has been accompanied by the care and encouragement of the Popes, starting with the wish expressed by St John XXIII on the day of the inauguration", said Monsignor Claudio Giuliodori at the beginning of the celebration, recalling the days when the Holy Father was admitted to the Gemelli Hospital. "We have always felt the strong support and sure guidance of the successor of Peter", added the General Ecclesial Assistant: "We still need to be comforted and guided in the realisation of the fascinating mission, to form witnesses of God's merciful love: doctors, health personnel and administrative staff" who know how to "take care" with the "highest scientific competence" and with "authentic compassion of the most needy".

The importance of care, compassion and comfort came up again and again in the Holy Father's homily, which included references to the uncertainty of the moment that has made us all smaller and more fragile. Perhaps for this reason, in this time of pandemic, it may be helpful to remember, which for Pope Francis "means 'returning to the heart'". However, the Holy Father remarked, "in today's hurry, amidst a thousand races and continuous worries, we are losing the ability to be moved and to feel compassion, because we are losing this return to the heart, the memory. Without memory we lose our roots and without roots we do not grow. It is good for us to nurture the memory of those who have loved us, cared for us, raised us up. Today I would like to renew my 'thank you' for the care and affection I have received here. I believe that in this time of pandemic, it is good for us to remember even the most painful periods: not to make us sad, but not to forget, and to orient our choices in the light of a very recent past".

Hence the need for the Holy Father to "cultivate the art of remembrance, treasuring the faces we meet". The thought goes to the "tiring days in hospital, in university, at work. We run the risk that everything will pass without a trace or that only so much fatigue and tiredness will remain. It is good for us, in the evening, to review the faces we have met, the smiles we have received, the good words. They are memories of love and help our memory to find itself again. How important these memories are in hospitals! They can give meaning to a sick person's day. A fraternal word, a smile, a caress on the face: these are memories that heal inside, they do the heart good. Let us not forget the therapy of remembrance!".                                   

Passion is the second word on which the Holy Father reflects, and he uses the image of the Sacred Heart to explain it. It "is the icon of the passion: it shows us God's visceral tenderness, his loving passion for us, and at the same time, surmounted by the cross and surrounded by thorns, it shows us how much suffering our salvation has cost". For this reason, "if we really want to love God, we must be passionate about man, about every man, especially those who live the condition in which the Heart of Jesus was manifested: pain, abandonment, being discard. When we serve those who suffer we console and rejoice in the Heart of Christ. A striking passage from the Gospel".  

The third word, comfort, according to Pope Francis "indicates a strength that does not come from us, but from the one who is with us. Jesus, the God-with-us, gives us this strength, his Heart gives courage in adversity. So many uncertainties frighten us: in this time of pandemic, we have discovered ourselves smaller and more fragile. Despite so many marvellous advances, this is also evident in the medical field: so many rare and unknown diseases, how much effort it takes to keep up with pathologies, treatment facilities, a health service that is truly what it should be, for everyone. We could become discouraged. This is why we need comfort".

The theme of comfort and courage also returned in Rector Franco Anelli's final thanks. "Holy Father, in these difficult times we are constantly comforted and encouraged by your Magisterium, by your gestures and words that have accompanied us in the most painful moments to tell us to look at the evil that challenged us as an opportunity to learn and reflect, grow and improve". In the course of these sixty years, which fall in the year of the University's centenary, added the Rector, "the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery has made great progress in its teaching and research activities, while maintaining a clear and unchanged mission: to unite, as you teach us, the language of the mind, heart and hands, and to place them all at the service of the sick, in whom the image of humanity is reflected". In this sense, observed the Rector Franco Anelli, "it is significant what the theologian Tomáš Halík writes in a book recently translated by our University publishing house, Vita e Pensiero, when he observes that, by inviting the Apostle Thomas to touch his wounds, Jesus wanted to tell him that 'there where you touch the suffering of man, and perhaps only there, you will recognise that I am alive, that I am'".

Person at the centre and ability to care. The Pope's final invitation is in fact to change perspective and look at reality starting from the 'greatness of the Heart' of Jesus. "Let us ask the Sacred Heart for the grace to be able in our turn to console. It is a grace that must be asked for, while we commit ourselves with courage to open up, help each other, carry each other's burdens. It also applies to the future of health care, especially 'Catholic' health care: may Jesus open the hearts of those who care for the sick to collaboration and cohesion".

After the Eucharistic Celebration, the Holy Father met some of the guests of the Villetta della Misericordia, the first reception centre in Rome for homeless people in a university and hospital area, inaugurated on 16 June 2016 on the Campus of Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore and Gemelli Hospital and created on the initiative of Fondazione Policlinico Universitario A. Gemelli IRCCS, Istituto Giuseppe Toniolo di Studi Superiori, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore and Comunità di Sant'Egidio.

Lastly, for the 60th anniversary of the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery, Università Cattolica donated essential medicines for health structures in Lebanon, Syria and Sudan through the Holy See's Almoner Cardinal Konrad Krajewski.

Before returning to the Vatican, the Holy Father blessed the work of Roberto Joppolo "Fratellanza Universale" (Universal Brotherhood), which will be placed at the entrance to the Gemelli Hospital. The University also donated a bronze work of art by Federico Severino representing the Sacred Heart and recalling the patron saint and the identity of the University.

Un articolo di

Katia Biondi - Federica Mancinelli

Katia Biondi - Federica Mancinelli

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