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Pope thanks health care workers, urges equal access to care for all

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Pope Francis speaks in a recorded video message to an online health care conference May 8, 2021. Health care must be free from inequality and open to all those who are ill, the pope said in his remarks to the “Exploring the Mind, Body and Soul — Unite to Prevent and Unite to Cure” conference. The conference was organized jointly by the Pontifical Council for Culture, its Science and Faith Foundation and the New York-based Cura Foundation and Stem for Life Foundation. (CNS photo/courtesy Meagher Group)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis expressed his gratitude for all those who are committed to caring for the sick and supporting those in great need.

“All of us are grateful in these days to those working tirelessly to combat the pandemic, which continues to claim many lives, yet at the same time has represented a challenge to our sense of solidarity and authentic fraternity,” he said in a video message to an online conference on health care May 8.

“For this reason, concern for the centrality of the human person also demands reflection on models of health care that are accessible to all the sick, without disparity,” he said.

The pope’s message in Italian helped close a three-day virtual conference featuring more than 100 speakers presenting the latest advancements in medicine and innovative ways to deliver health care as well as discussing their theological, ethical and cultural impacts.

Titled, “Exploring the Mind, Body and Soul — Unite to Prevent and Unite to Cure,” it was the fifth health care conference organized jointly by the Pontifical Council for Culture, its Science and Faith (STOQ) Foundation and the New York-based Cura Foundation and Stem for Life Foundation, which seeks to promote stem-cell therapy and research.

In his address, the pope underlined the importance of the conference uniting philosophical and theological reflection with scientific research, especially in the field of medicine.

Thanks to such interdisciplinary studies, he said, “we can come to appreciate better the dynamics involved in the relationship between our physical condition and the state of our habitat, between health and nourishment, our psychophysical well-being and the care of the spiritual life — also through the practice of prayer and meditation — and finally between health and sensitivity to art, and especially music.”

This broader vision of and commitment to interdisciplinary research helps expand human knowledge, “which, applied to the medical sciences, translates into more sophisticated research and increasingly suitable and exact strategies of care,” he said.

One example where this has happened, he said, is in the field of genetics, with research aimed at curing disease.

“Yet this progress has also raised a number of anthropological and ethical issues, such as those dealing with the manipulation of the human genome aimed at controlling or even overcoming the aging process or at achieving human enhancement,” he said.

The pope explained the importance of understanding and describing the many facets of the human being — as body, mind and soul — in an “interdisciplinary way.”

Speaking as well to the many university students watching the conference online, the pope said, “I encourage you to undertake and pursue interdisciplinary research involving various centers of study for the sake of a better understanding of ourselves and of our human nature, with all its limits and possibilities, while always keeping in mind the transcendent horizon to which our being tends.”

The pope asked God to bless everyone’s work and expressed his hope that participants would “retain your enthusiasm, and indeed your wonderment, before the ever-deeper mystery of man.”

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