Pope Francis gives St. Mother Teresa's "recognition and respect for human dignity" as an Example to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - Full Text


Clementine room
Thursday, January 30, 2020

Dear brothers in the episcopate and in the priesthood,
dear brothers and sisters,

I welcome you on the occasion of your Plenary Assembly. I thank the prefect for his kind words; and I greet all of you, Superiors, Officers and Members of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. I am grateful to you for all the work you do in the service of the universal Church, in aid of the Bishop of Rome and the Bishops of the world in promoting and protecting the integrity of Catholic doctrine on faith and morals.

Christian doctrine is not a rigid and closed system in itself, but neither is it an ideology that changes with the passing of the seasons; it is a dynamic reality which, remaining faithful to its foundation, is renewed from generation to generation and summarized in a face, in a body and in a name: the Risen Jesus Christ.

Thanks to the Risen Lord, faith opens us up to others and their needs, from the smallest to the largest. Therefore, the transmission of faith requires that its recipient be taken into account, that he is known and actively loved. In this perspective, your commitment to reflect, during this Plenary, on the care of people in the critical and terminal stages of life is significant.

The current socio-cultural context is progressively eroding awareness of what makes human life precious. In fact, it is increasingly evaluated on the basis of its efficiency and usefulness, to the point of considering "rejected lives" or "unworthy lives" those that do not meet this criterion. In this situation of loss of authentic values, the mandatory duties of solidarity and human and Christian brotherhood also fail.

In reality, a company deserves the status of "civil" if it develops antibodies against the culture of waste; if it recognizes the intangible value of human life; if solidarity is actively practiced and safeguarded as the foundation of coexistence.

When illness knocks on the door of our life, the need to have someone looking at us in the eye, holding our hand, showing his tenderness and taking care of us, like the Good Samaritan of evangelical parable (cf. Message for the XXVIII World Day of the Sick, 11 February 2020).

The theme of the care of the sick, in the critical and terminal stages of life, calls into question the task of the Church to rewrite the "grammar" of taking charge and taking care of the suffering person. The example of the Good Samaritan teaches that it is necessary to convert the gaze of the heart, because many times the viewer does not see. Why? Because there is no compassion. It occurs to me that, many times, the Gospel, speaking of Jesus before a person who suffers, says: "he had compassion", "he had compassion" ... A refrain of the person of Jesus. Without compassion, the beholder does not get involved in what he observes and goes beyond; instead those who have a compassionate heart are touched and involved, stop and take care of them.

Around the patient, it is necessary to create a real human platform of relationships that, while promoting medical treatment, open to hope, especially in those borderline situations in which physical evil is accompanied by emotional discomfort and spiritual anguish.

The relational - and not merely clinical - approach to the patient, considered in the uniqueness and integrity of his person, imposes the duty to never abandon anyone in the presence of incurable evils. Human life, because of its eternal destination, retains all its value and dignity in all conditions, including precariousness and fragility, and as such is always worthy of the utmost consideration.

Saint Teresa of Calcutta, who lived the style of proximity and sharing, preserving, up to the end, the recognition and respect for human dignity, and making dying more human, said thus: "Who on the path of life has also turned on only a torch in someone's dark hour has not lived in vain. "

In this regard, I think about how well hospices do for palliative care, where terminally ill people are accompanied with qualified medical, psychological and spiritual support, so that they can live with dignity, comforted by the closeness of loved ones, the final phase of their earthly life. I hope that these centers continue to be places where "therapy of dignity" is practiced with commitment, thus nurturing love and respect for life.
I also appreciate the study you have undertaken regarding the revision of the rules on delicta graviora reserved for your Dicastery, contained in the Motu proprio "Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutelage" of Saint John Paul II. Your commitment is in the right direction to update the legislation with a view to greater effectiveness of the procedures, to make it more orderly and organic, in light of the new situations and problems of the current socio-cultural context. At the same time, I urge you to continue firmly in this task, to offer a valid contribution in an area in which the Church is directly involved in proceeding with rigor and transparency in protecting the sanctity of the sacraments and the human dignity violated, especially of the little ones.

Finally, I congratulate you on the recent publication of the document drawn up by the Pontifical Biblical Commission on the fundamental themes of biblical anthropology. It deepens a global vision of the divine plan, which began with creation and which finds its fulfillment in Christ, the new man, who constitutes "the key, the center and the end of all human history" (Conc. Ecum. Vatican II, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes, 10).

I thank all of you, Members and Collaborators of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, for your precious service. I invoke upon you an abundance of the blessings of the Lord; and I ask you, please, to pray for me. Thank you!
Full Text + Image Source: Vatican.va - UnOfficial Translation -