Address of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin at annual World Day of the Sick conference

06 Feb 2016

Address of Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin Archbishop of Dublin

Talbot Hotel, Mount Merrion, 6th February 2016

“I am sure that bishops are not supposed to make anything that might look like a political statement in the period prior to a General Election and I had better abide by that principal.

​There is no doubt however that health care is certainly one of the areas of greatest concern for most of us as we reflect on the future of our society. It is not just a concern of a political nature, but simply about the fact that everyone today is worried and anxious about what would happen to themshould they be hit by serious illness, or should one of their children become sick or what will happen to their elderly parents or relatives as they get on in years.

​I do not think that I would be exaggerating if I were to say that this is one of the most significant anxieties that people feel and would wish both the political and the health care community should address.

​It is not simply an Irish question. The costs, theefficiency and the quality of health care are significant problems the word over. Inequalities in health care are sadly a distressing dimension of our world. There are the huge inequalities around the world between the wealthy and the poorer countries. In so many parts of the world children die tragically of illnesses which are easily cured. Two-tier health care systems are a feature of every wealthy society.

​Health care is too important to be considered just as a political question. That is not to underestimate the role of politics and economic planning which, taken overall. havefailed us in so many dimensions. Extraordinary scientific progress in fighting disease and in medical research has not been paralleled by the science of equity and sharing.

​I want at a Conference such as this this morning to come back to the community dimension of heath care and hereChurch communities can play a special role. There is a danger that our societies can fall into the temptation of thinking that health care is a matter just for professionals and for the State.

We need to foster a deeper sense of how society and community can play their role and how that role can best be sustained and recognised by the State. Pope Benedict spokeabout the place of the human warmth and care and love of each of us plays in health care and social service. He noted that:

“There is no ordering of the State so just that it can eliminate the need for a service of love. Whoever wants to eliminate love is preparing to eliminate man as such. There will always be suffering which cries out for consolation and help. There will always be loneliness. There will always be situations of material need where help in the form of concrete love of neighbour is indispensable. The State which would provide everything, absorbing everything into itself, would ultimately become a mere bureaucracy incapable of guaranteeing the very thing which the suffering person – every person -needs: namely, loving personal concern”.

And he continued:
“We do not need a State which regulates and controls everything, but a State which, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, generously acknowledges and supports initiatives arising from the different social forces and combines spontaneity with closeness to those in need”.

And he concludes finally:
“In the end, the claim that just social structures would make works of charity superfluous masks a materialist conception of man: the mistaken notion that man can live “by bread alone” (Mt 4:4; cf. Dt 8:3)—a conviction that demeans man and ultimately disregards all that is specifically human.

Those of you who have been on pilgrimage to Lourdes will know of the distinctive atmosphere of Lourdes which puts the sick at the centre of concern. In Lourdes the sick are the privileged who are served by others, who society would probably consider privileged. On our Dublin Diocesan Pilgrimage each year we are proud of the role of our young people in serving the sick. A unique atmosphere of care develops far from the indifference into which it is easy for us all to fall. Bonds are established which reach across generations and social class.

Respect for life is about constant concern for those who are weakest to ensure that everyone can have access to the highest level of personal realisation possible within a climate of care and love.

​Speaking of respect for life I cannot overlook the extraordinary examples of violence which have marked our city again in recent days. Violence is to be condemnedwhatever its roots are. Dismembering bodies as some sort of warning is not sign of prestige or power but of despicable inhumanity. Premediated shooting in public places even in the presence of terrified children and innocent bystanders only degrades the humanity of those who do it. They fail to see that such inhumanity inevitably rebounds on its ownperpetrators and never leaves them with the security they seek. I appeal to anyone who has influence to ensure that more young men are not dragged into such dehumanizing violence, fostered by despicable and cynical exploiters who feel they can treat life lightly.

The message of Lourdes is a message about the noblest dimensions of human service, love, care and compassion. Noble behaviour ennobles those who undertake it. Suchbehaviour is what builds up society and a vision of community and participation and care. Jesus Christ is the revelation of the God whose name is mercy. If we believe in him we will witness to his mercy in the way we live.”

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