Statistics have indicated that the contribution of the Catholic Church to healthcare services globally is about 25 per cent but in parts of Sub-Saharan African, this rises as high as 40-70 per cent especially in isolated rural areas. The contribution of Irish missionaries to the development and provision of these services throughout Africa is inestimable. It is common for people there to seek Catholic "mission hospitals" because of the reputation they have for the provision of holistic care to patients.
Following Lord Jesus Christ’s example of reaching out to the sick and poor, the Catholic Church has long prioritized medical ministry, and it has served as the largest non-governmental provider of health services in the world.
Among the most outstanding relevant events is that the Bambino Gesù Hospital in Rome has been among the first to welcome groups of wounded and sick children from Gaza. Together with family members, children will be receiving the necessary medical care that was unavailable to them in Gaza.
President, Bambino Gesù Hospital says, “We tried to make sure that the child was in the most natural conditions to be able to stay here and think about taking care of themselves. Basically, they are receiving all the love and hospitality from the doctors, nurses, all the volunteers and also from ourselves to show that we are close to them.”
He adds, “We welcome everyone regardless of religion, of wealth. We provide healthcare for all children in a special way but here the door is always open for everyone. And we consider that the Bambino Gesù carries out a whole international activity that is very important, which then concretely expresses the mission of the Church in this sense. While only a small group of children have been able to make the journey to Italy thus far, those involved in this mission are hopeful that more children will be able to receive the treatment they need both at the Bambino Gesù and throughout Italy.”
Fr. Ibrahim Faltas, vicar of Custody of the Holy Land says, “They have changed. They are much better. We saw them smile and they are happy. They said they came out of hell and they came here to Italy. For them, it was like the dream. No one could imagine coming here to Italy, then to Bambino Gesù. And really they are happy.”
The children traveled by plane from Gaza through Egypt to Italy, where ambulances and doctors were waiting to take them directly to the hospital. Together with the vicar of the Custody of the Holy Land, the hospital president visited each of the new patients to bring them gifts and messages of hope. They described the move to Italy as already having a positive impact on the children.
In an earlier statement to vaticannews.va, Fr. Faltas says, “In Gaza, the entire Christian community is barricaded in two churches, namely 600 believers in the Latin parish of the Holy Family and 200 others in the Greek Orthodox Church.
He decries that the people of Gaza "have nothing: there is no water, no food, no possibility of communicating,” but reaffirmed that the Church "is doing all it can to get basic necessities to them." He shared his "dream" whereby Gaza's wounded children could arrive in Italy for treatment and perhaps be saved from an otherwise almost certain death.
A second group of Gaza children have arrived in Italy for medical treatment whereas Fr. Faltas expressed both joy and sadness, stating, "It is a day of great joy for the success of this operation, but also of deep sadness to see the miserable conditions in which these children have arrived. Some of them are in truly serious condition, and ambulances immediately transferred them to the nearest hospitals that are taking part in the operation: the Meyer in Florence and the Gaslini in Genoa.” He added, “Once again, Italy has shown its best face and its commitment to humanitarian aid, and for this, I want to thank Minister Tajani, representing all, along with all the military and civilian authorities who collaborated.”
It is worthy to mention the Vatican has been playing a key role in providing free healthcare for Rome's poor and homeless people. The Vatican opened the "Clinic for the Poor" which provides free medical treatment to those who cannot afford basic care.
The Church said this center was a "concrete sign of mercy in St. Peter's Square" and would be staffed by experienced doctors from a nearby hospital. Archbishop Konrad Krajewski told Vatican Radio: "We are equipped to help all those who come knocking on our door. It is Pope Francis who wants this and those of us who are close to him in this venture are honored and highly motivated to make this possible. It is an indispensable service to the health of the poor who live among us."
It is also important to note in this regard that in a step that reflects the firm commitment to humanitarian work, to achieving a mission in support of those in need, as well as to providing assistance in difficult circumstances, Caritas Jordan and the Jordan Hashemite Charity Organization (JHCO) signed an agreement on January 24, 2024. The agreement provides for cooperation and an understanding to jointly transfer urgently needed aid to the people in the Gaza Strip who face challenges resulting from the wars, at a time when they urgently need to receive aid such as food, water, medicine, and other basic supplies. This humanitarian work is carried out by the JHCO with the support from the Catholic Relief Services. For its part, Caritas Jordan will provide needed support which includes in-kind relief materials and humanitarian aid which will be delivered through the charitable organization.
Furthermore,it is worthy to note that a “Pope Francis Hospital Ship” has been sailing the Amazon River for some time delivering free medical aid and assistance to some 700,000 members of coastal populations – many of them indigenous communities - in Brazil’s Amazon Rainforest. This ship has already worked miracles, bringing healing and hope to river populations. The crew is committed to raising awareness and providing information to the local populations and offers on-the-spot first-stage outpatient treatment.
It is also of great importance to note that His Holiness Pope Francis Pope Francis' monthly prayer intention this February 2024 has been for the terminally ill and their families as the Pope invited the Church to pray for this intention in this month.
Many or rather profuse thanks and appreciations are dedicated to the global Catholic Church and to its divine message of providing gargantuan medical aid to the poor and the needy.