Vatican Corner 03-18-18


On March 3, 2018 in Vatican City at the Paul VI Audience Hall, Pope Francis spoke to thousands of Italian nurses who were members of the Federation of Professional Nursing Colleges, Health Assistants, and Child Wardens. He greeted them and thanked them for their valuable work. He departed from his prepared text to pay tribute to the Dominican nun who he believes saved his life when he was a young man. Francis told a brief story of when he was 20 years old in Argentina. He was ill and close to death from a lung infection. Sister Cornelia Caraglio a nurse from Italy, who was highly educated and sent to Greece as a professor, came to Argentina to do nursing. She argued with the doctors on how to treat his illness, saying “No, this isn’t working. You must give more,” insisting on more aggressive antibiotics. With the removal of part of his infected lung and the antibiotics, he survived. Francis said “she was a good woman, even brave, to the point of arguing with the doctors, humble, but sure of what she was doing. He told the group of Italian nurses at the meeting that his story illustrates the importance of the profession of nursing. He said “Like Sister Cargalio, you are there all day and you see what happens to the patient. Thank you for that!” he continued, “many lives, so many lives are saved thanks to you!” He acknowledged the “truly irreplaceable” role nurses play in the lives of their patients and the unique relationships nurses form with all members of the healthcare team – patients, families and colleagues. He said in hospitals and rehabilitation centers, nurses are at “the crossroads” of dozens of relationships, involving patients, their families, doctors and other staff, so they usually have more information about a host of factors that must be considered when determining how best to care for the patient as a person. “The sensitivity you acquire by being in contact with patients all day,” he said, “makes you promoters of the life and dignity of persons.” Nurses, he said are constantly engaged in the act of listening, in order to understand the needs of their patient, no matter what he or she is going through. “Touch is an important factor for demonstrating respect for the dignity of the person.” He said “a caress, a smile, is full of meaning for one who is sick. It is a simple gesture, but encouraging, he or she feels accompanied, feels closer to being healed, feels like a person, not a number.” Pope Francis also acknowledged the difficulty of the profession with its risks and tiring shifts. Because of the demands on nurses, he encouraged patients to have patience with them, making requests without demanding, and to smile more at their nurse. Pope Francis said throughout his ministry, “Jesus was close to the sick.” That is why, for the Church, the sick are people in whom Christ is especially present. Christ has even identified himself with them by saying: “I was sick and you visited me.”