Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 21, 2000
Bishops stress healing ministry
Alta. prelates emphasize importance of care for the sick, dying
By By GLEN ARGAN
Alberta's Catholic bishops are calling on the province's Catholics "to renew their sense of the healing ministry of Christ."
In a pastoral letter on health care released Feb. 15, the bishops raise pointed questions on the issue of private hospitals but refrain from taking a stand on privatization.
But the main emphasis of the letter is on the importance of care for the sick and dying in the Catholic tradition.
The bishops express gratitude for those involved in health care ministry and note that the Holy Spirit is calling the Church to be involved in health care "in dynamic new ways."
Edmonton Archbishop Thomas Collins told the WCR the bishops decided to write the letter because health care is an important part of the life of the Church.
People involved in healing ministries "are doing something that is very sacred," Collins said.
The bishops have been working on the letter for about six months, he said, and they hope all Catholics will read the letter thoughtfully and become involved with those who need their assistance.
The bishops' 2,200-word letter, The Healing Ministry of Jesus Christ, is signed by the province's four bishops and two diocesan administrators.
It says the issue of private hospitals should be examined from the perspective of Gospel values. The bishops then ask six questions about the effect of private hospitals:
"Will Albertans be served equally? Is this an improvement in our health system or an incursion that threatens universal access to care?
"If there is public money for profits in health care, how could that possibly make our system more efficient? How are public accountability and transparency served by privatization?
"What evidence is there that 'market forces' work for the benefit of the sick in health care? Finally, are we Christians prepared to suggest alternatives that offer a better path for good, egalitarian health care?"
The bishops applaud governments "who have had the courage to support a health care system that treats all Canadians equally.
"We pray that this communal compassion will not be eroded by a lack of concern under the guise of economics."
The letter begins with a reflection on Jesus' role as a healer. Jesus, the bishops say, "recognizes the vulnerability of the sick, . . . brings the 'outcast' back into human society . . . (and) reaffirms the need for spiritual healing."
They emphasize that health care has become a ministry of the whole Church. "Since the time of Jesus, Christians have seen care for the sick as one of the signs of the kingdom of God."
They recognize the many forms of Catholic health care institutions but also point to the importance of home care for family, friends and strangers. "When families are overwhelmed by home care needs, our public health care system should support them," they state.
The bishops also stress the importance of parish-based health care, especially in meeting the needs of people who do not have "an urgent illness." They cite parish nursing, pastoral visitation, bringing Communion to the sick and the Sacrament of the Sick as ways that parishes can help those who are ill.
The bishops then go on to point out the important role religious orders have played in the healing ministry. "The province of Alberta has been blessed with a long history of dedication by religious orders of women to the care of the sick and the dying."
They observe that while the number of religious sisters involved in health care is diminishing, their place is being taken by lay people "inspired by the example of the sisters and by the Church's call for a new evangelization."
Today, health care is a field of professionals and Catholic institutions must have "the highest possible standards for care," the bishops say.
However, a Christian ministry adds several perspectives to that of professionalism. The bishops point to the sanctity of human life and "Gospel stewardship of health care resources" in maintaining that "above all, care of the sick is inspired and judged by the spirit of the Gospels."
"Our goal must always be to reach out to serve those who are suffering, not to sell a product," they say.
The letter then goes on to express the bishops' gratitude to all those involved in healing ministries including governments.
And the bishops urge Christians "to recognize that God's call to faith in Jesus Christ is also a call to continue his healing ministry."