By Ann Schneible
Pope Francis paid a visit to the patients of a children’s hospital in Krakow on Friday, where he expressed his solidarity with the sick and lauded the hospital in its caring for “the smallest and most needy,” showing his gratitude to those present for “this sign of love.”
“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,” the Pope said July 29 to the patients, their families, and their caretakers.
“Those who engage in works of mercy have no fear of death,” he added.
The Pope’s visit to the Prokocim University Pediatric Hospital took place on the second full day of his July 27-31 visit to Poland, where he is leading World Youth Day festivities in Krakow.
Francis also stressed the need for social and political concerns to center on the needs of society’s most disadvantaged.
“This is the sign of true civility, human and Christian: to make those who are most disadvantaged the centre of social and political concern,” he said.
“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.”
During the visit, he met with some 50 child patients, their families, and the medical personnel who care for them.
The Roman Pontiff presented the hospital with a painting by Pietro Casentini depicting Christ, St. Peter, and the disciples in Capernaum facing the crowds of sick and disabled people.
In his short address, Pope Francis expressed his desire “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 Pope observed how the Gospel gives many examples of Christ’s going out to meet and embrace the sick. He compared the Lord’s compassionate attentiveness to that of a mother who cares for her sick child.
The Roman Pontiff expressed his wish that Catholics would follow Christ’s example in drawing near to the sick, “in silence, with a caress, with prayer.”
The Pope also addressed the loneliness families sometimes feel in providing care for their loved ones.
“Let us multiply the works of the culture of acceptance, works inspired by Christian love, love for Jesus crucified, for the flesh of Christ,” he said in response.
The Pope offered his encouragement to all medical professionals, chaplains, and volunteers who have made it a “personal life decision” to respond to the Gospel’s call to “visit the sick.”
“May the Lord help you to do your work well, here as in every other hospital in the world,” he said, going off the cuff to remember in particular the many religious sisters who spend their lives serving in hospitals.
“May he reward you by giving you inner peace and a heart always capable of tenderness.”