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Interview With Secretary of Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers

MADRID, Spain, SEPT. 29, 2003 ( John Paul II is evangelizing with his suffering, says a Vatican aide.

Bishop Josť Luis Redrado, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, and the only bishop in the history of the Hospitaller Order of St. John of God, talked about the new evangelization of the world of suffering and health and the witness of life that the 83-year-old Pope is carrying out.

Q: What is the principal task of the Church in the realm of health care?

Bishop Redrado: The Church has always been present in the health realm because she responds to the message that Jesus himself left to her: "Go, baptize, and cure the sick."

Throughout the history of the Church we see how she has been attentive to the service of the sick. She has had champions of charity, like John of God, Camillus of Lellis, St. Vincent de Paul, and an enormous army, especially of women, at the end of the 19th century. The Church has been very attentive especially in times of crisis in the world.

The present Pope is also a champion of attention to the world of the sick. When his health was brilliant and strong, we all saw him give encouragement with his word; but when he became ill, he has given us an example with his situation. I myself published an article in [the review] Ecclesia in which I referred to him as "the hospital professor." The Pope jokes saying he has three residences: the Vatican, Castel Gandolfo and the Gemelli Hospital in Rome.

Moreover, John Paul II published a document like "Salvifici Doloris," dedicated especially to pain, suffering and the meaning of human suffering. And it was also this Pope who instituted the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers. The Church really discovers with this Pope, who instituted the pontifical council, . the ministry of health, which was exercised by Jesus Christ.

In the future, this Pope will be remembered for many reasons, but above all he will be remembered as the Pope who spoke to us about pain and suffering having had an experience of these like no one else.

He has spoken to us from his experience as a professor; we have learned by seeing him suffer. And we have never seen him as brilliant as when he has been frail. It would seem that a pope or a king should hide his frailty. Even we often think: "Why does he have to look like this?" But he has no complex about appearing frail.

Q: What are the functions of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers?

Bishop Redrado: The Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers coordinates and animates from the Holy See all the organizations involved with health.

This Pope has instituted dicasteries for culture, the family and health pastoral care -- three aspects that characterized the Pope even before he was elected, because he wanted to bring to the papacy important things that he himself experienced and that are of great moment today.

Another mediation instituted by this Pope, which is multiplying the Church's presence in the world of the sick, is the World Day of the Sick, which is observed every year on Feb. 11. The pontifical council is responsible for organizing it worldwide; every year it is held in a different continent.

Last year it was in the American continent, in Washington. This year we are going to Lourdes, because the 150th anniversary will be celebrated there of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, and Lourdes is a special place. Moreover, it was at Lourdes that the 1st Day of the Sick was held, where we now return after having been to all the continents.

Q: Why is it that some men are reconciled with God while suffering, and others in such circumstances rebel against him?

Bishop Redrado: The new evangelization is carried out through the cross, but the acceptance or rejection of it depends much on a person's psychological sensitivity. Man cannot avoid what is happening to him, good or bad. Sickness is a bad thing, but it will be a good thing in the end, if a person grows in the way he sees the sickness.

If man rebels against sickness, it is an evil; if he continues to be rebellious, it is an evil. But if he gradually moves toward acceptance, and adds love to his illness as he has loved the Lord, in the end it is a good thing for the person, because he discovers a new way of seeing things and even conversion. The face of God comes closer, as God was never far away. It is a mystery.

Sickness is an occasion in a patient's life that is not easy to live through, but if he opens up to a new experience, an experience of faith and love, the patient will discover a much richer, more magnificent reality of God.

The patient experiences a Good Friday of pain, suffering, but he is not closed ...

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