People in chronic pain need someone to listen, acknowledge them, pope says

Pope Francis greets a woman during a meeting Feb. 9, 2023, with staff and collaborators of the medical office of the Diocese of Rome's health care ministry and some of the people they assist. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Caring for the sick and suffering includes drawing attention to those who suffer in silence, struggling to find someone who will acknowledge they are in pain and try to help, Pope Francis said.

“It is important to give voice to the unheard suffering of those who, in illness, are left alone, lacking financial and moral support, easily exposed to despair and loss of faith, as can happen to those with fibromyalgia and chronic pain,” the pope said Feb. 9 during a meeting with representatives of the medical office of the Diocese of Rome’s health care ministry.

The meeting with health care professionals, chaplains and people who are sick was scheduled to coincide with the World Day of the Sick, which the Catholic Church celebrates Feb. 11, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.

The diocesan office and several Rome hospitals launched a program in 2020 focused specifically on people with fibromyalgia and other ailments marked by chronic pain; in addition to a phone line patients can call just to talk, the program pairs the patients with volunteers who can do their shopping or drive them to appointments. In January, members of the Lazio professional soccer team signed on to help bring public attention to the needs of people in constant pain.

Pope Francis told the group that Christians are called “to be close to those who suffer, offering listening, love and acceptance. But to do this we must learn to see, in our brother’s or sister’s pain a ‘sign of precedence,’ which deep in our hearts requires us to stop and does not allow us to go any further.”

“Walking together like this helps us all grasp the truest meaning of life, which is love,” he said.

Speaking directly to those at the audience who are sick, Pope Francis said that in frailty and when suffering is lived with faith “you are close to the heart of God,” so he asked them to pray “that closeness to those who suffer and a concrete commitment in charity may grow among us and that no cry of pain may go unheard any longer.”

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