#PopeFrancis "... be as close to the sick as Jesus was, in silence, with a caress, with prayer." FULL TEXT - Video at Hospital
Vatican Radio) It was a day dedicated to showing the Christian response to pain and suffering. Coming midway through his five day visit to Poland, Pope Francis began the day on Friday with a visit to the Nazi death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau and ended it with a Way of the Cross led by young people in Krakow’s Blonia Park.
In between those two events he visited a children’s hospital where some of the most severely ill children from all over the country are treated.
It was a particularly poignant meeting as the Pope and the Polish Prime Minister were welcomed by rows of sick children, many of them in wheelchairs, alongside family members and staff from the Prokocim Pediatric hospital.
Originally built by money from the Polish American community and later by grants from the U.S. government, the hospital treats thousands of children each year, in particular those suffering from the most advanced tumours, severely premature babies and conjoined twins requiring surgery to separate them.
As he always does on these occasions, Pope Francis took time to hold hands, to caress cheeks and to bless, one by one, the young patients, telling them he would like to draw near and embrace all children who are sick and suffering.
Speaking through a translator, he told them that Jesus was always attentive to the sick, looking at them in the same compassionate way that a mother looks at her sick child.
“How I wish that we Christians could be as close to the sick as Jesus was”, he told them, but sadly, he said, our society is tainted by the culture of waste which is the opposite of the culture of acceptance.
The victims of that culture of waste, the Pope said, are the weakest and most frail but instead, he added, it’s beautiful to see in this hospital how the smallest and most needy are welcomed and cared for. He called on Christians to multiply the culture of acceptance, saying that to serve the needy with love and tenderness makes all of us grow in humanity.
Finally the Pope thanked and encouraged all those who have responded to the Gospel call to ‘visit the sick’, doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, chaplains, volunteers and religious sisters who serve in hospitals in countries across the globe.
Before leaving the hospital, the Pope had a chance to meet privately with some of the sickest patients and to spend a few moments of silent prayer in the chapel. The questions about why children suffer, he had noted earlier, have “no easy answers”. We are called to simply be still and pray, just as he had done in the death camp earlier in the day, and just as the young people would do as they watched the re-enactment of Christ’s passion later in the day.
Please find below the English translation of Pope Francis' words at the Prokocim Children's Hospital in Krakow
Dear brothers and sisters,
A special part of my visit to Krakow is this meeting with the little patients of this hospital. I greet all of you and I thank the Prime Minister for his kind words. I would like to draw near to all children who are sick, to stand at their bedside, and embrace them. I would like to listen to everyone here, even if for only a moment, and to be still before questions that have no easy answers. And to pray.
The Gospel often shows us the Lord Jesus meeting the sick, embracing them and seeking them out. Jesus is always attentive to them. He looks at them in the same way that a mother looks at her sick child, and he is moved by compassion for them.
How I would wish that we Christians could be as close to the sick as Jesus was, in silence, with a caress, with prayer. Sadly, our society is tainted by the culture of waste, which is the opposite of the culture of acceptance. And the victims of the culture of waste are those who are weakest and most frail; and this is indeed cruel. How beautiful it is instead to see that in this hospital the smallest and most needy are welcomed and cared for. Thank you for this sign of love that you offer us! This is the sign of true civility, human and Christian: to make those who are most disadvantaged the centre of social and political concern.
Sometimes families feel alone in providing this care. What can be done? From this place, so full of concrete signs of love, I would like to say: Let us multiply the works of the culture of acceptance, works inspired by Christian love, love for Jesus crucified, for the flesh of Christ. To serve with love and tenderness persons who need our help makes all of us grow in humanity. It opens before us the way to eternal life. Those who engage in works of mercy have no fear of death.
I encourage all those who have made the Gospel call to “visit the sick” a personal life decision: physicians, nurses, healthcare workers, chaplains and volunteers. May the Lord help you to do your work well, here as in every other hospital in the world. I cannot fail to mention, here, the work of so many sisters who offer their lives in hospitals. May the Lord reward you by giving you inner peace and a heart always capable of tenderness.
Thank you for this encounter! I carry you with me in affection and prayer. And please, do not forget to pray for me.