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Pontifical Message for the Global Sick Day 2024

“Man should not be alone”.

Tending to the sick by nurturing relationships

“It is not good for man to be alone” (Gn 2:18). From the outset, God, who is love, created the human being for communion, ingraining in their being the relational dimension. Thus, our life, shaped in the image of the Trinity, is called to be fully realized in the dynamism of relationships, friendship, and mutual love. We have been fashioned to be together, not solitary. It is precisely because this design for communion is inscribed at the deepest core of the human heart that the experience of abandonment and loneliness is fearsome, painful, and even inhumane. It becomes even more so in times of fragility, uncertainty, and insecurity, often provoked by the onset of a serious illness.

Consider, for example, those who were terribly isolated during the Covid-19 pandemic; the patients who could not receive visitors, as well as the overwhelmed healthcare workers and support staff, confined to isolation wards. And of course, let us not forget those who had to face the hour of death alone, with only medical personnel present, far from their own families.

At the same time, I join with sorrow in the condition of suffering and solitude of those who, due to war and its tragic consequences, find themselves without support and assistance. War is the most dreadful of social diseases, and it is the most vulnerable who pay the highest price.

Nevertheless, it is necessary to emphasize that, even in countries at peace with greater resources, the time of old age and illness is often lived in solitude and sometimes even abandonment. This sad reality is primarily a consequence of the culture of individualism, which exalts performance at all costs and propagates the myth of efficiency, becoming indifferent and even ruthless when individuals no longer have the necessary strength to keep up with that pace. It consequently turns into a culture of discard, in which “people are no longer seen as a primary value to be respected and protected, especially if they are poor or disabled, if they are ‘not yet useful’ — like the unborn — or if they ‘are no longer of use’ — like the elderly” (Encyclical Letter Fratelli tutti, 18).Regrettably, this logic also prevails in certain political choices that are unable to place the dignity of the human person and their needs at the center and do not always favor the strategies and means necessary to ensure the fundamental right to health and access to medical care for every human being. At the same time, the abandonment of fragile individuals and their loneliness is exacerbated by the fact that care is solely reduced to health services, without being wisely accompanied by a “therapeutic alliance” between doctor, patient, and family members.