Pope Francis praises nurses for heroics during coronavirus pandemic

Belgian nurses pose with trays of cookies and pastries that they received to celebrate International Nurses Day at Erasme Hospital in Brussels May 12, 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic. (CNS photo/Yves Herman, Reuters) 

Pope Francis today called on leaders of nations throughout the world “to invest in health care as the primary common good, by strengthening its systems and employing greater numbers of nurses so as to ensure adequate care to everyone, with respect for the dignity of each person.”

In a message released by the Vatican on May 12, he offered high praise to nurses for the heroic work they are doing, particularly during this time of pandemic. “At this critical moment, marked by the global health emergency caused by the Covid-19 pandemic,” the pope said, “we have rediscovered the fundamental importance of the role being played by nurses and midwives.” The virus has infected more than four million people in 187 countries, causing over 284,000 deaths worldwide.

Advertisement

“Every day,” he said, “we witness the testimony of courage and sacrifice of health care workers and nurses, in particular, who, with professionalism, self-sacrifice and a sense of responsibility and love for neighbor, assist people affected by the virus, even to the point of putting their own health at risk. Sadly, this can be seen in the high number of health care workers who have died as a result of their faithful service.”

Based on information from 30 countries, the International Council of Nurses estimates that “at least 90,000 health care workers have been infected, and more than 260 nurses have died.” In Italy alone, 12,000 nurses have been infected with the virus, and 39 have died from it.

[Explore all of America’s in-depth coverage of the coronavirus pandemic]

“At this critical moment, marked by the global health emergency caused by the Covid-19 pandemic,” Pope Francis said, “we have rediscovered the fundamental importance of the role being played by nurses and midwives.” 

In his message, Francis said: “I pray for them—the Lord knows each of them by name—and for all the victims of this epidemic. May the Risen Lord grant to each of them the light of heaven and to their families the consolation of faith.”

Pope Francis offered the message as the world celebrated International Nurses Day, in the context of the International Year of Nurses and Midwives officially declared by the World Health Organization. In his message, he recalled that we are also celebrating the bicentennial of the birth of Florence Nightingale, “the pioneer of modern nursing.”

He told nurses, “It is important to recognize in an effective way the essential role your profession plays in patient care, local emergency activity, disease prevention, health promotion and assistance in family, community and school settings.”

Addressing the wider public, and especially governments, Francis said: “Nurses, as well as midwives, deservedly have the right to be better and more fully valued and involved in processes concerning the health of individuals and communities. It has been shown that investing in them improves overall care and health.

“You are close to people at crucial moments in their existence—birth and death, disease and healing—helping them deal with traumatic situations. Because of your dedication, you are among the ‘saints next door.’”

“Their professionalism should thus be enhanced by providing suitable scientific, human, psychological and spiritual tools for their training, by improving their working conditions and by guaranteeing their rights, so that they can carry out their service in full dignity.”

In this regard, he recognized the “important role” played by “associations of healthcare workers,” which not only offer comprehensive training but also help individual members “feel part of a larger body, never dismayed and alone as they face the ethical, economic and human challenges that their profession entails.”

According to the Global Health Observatory, of the 43.5 million health workers in the world, about 21 million are nurses and midwives, yet 50 percent of World Health Organization’s member states report less than three nursing and midwifery personnel per 1,000 people (about 25 percent report less than one per 1,000 people).

He remembered nurses especially as he began his televised morning Mass, May 12, in the chapel of St. Martha, in the Vatican guesthouse where he lives: “Let us pray today for nurses...who practice this profession, which is more than a profession, it is a vocation, a dedication. May the Lord bless them!”

Moreover, he said, “in this time of pandemic, they have given an example of heroism, and some have given their life. Let us pray for these women and men nurses.”

He recalled that “nurses have historically played a central role in health care,” and said, “every day, in their contact with the sick, they experience the trauma caused by suffering in people’s lives. They are men and women who have chosen to say ‘yes’ to a very special vocation: that of being good Samaritans who are concerned for the life and suffering of others. They are guardians and preservers of life, who, even as they administer necessary treatments, offer courage, hope and trust.”

Addressing them directly, Francis said, “Dear nurses, moral responsibility is the hallmark of your professional service, which cannot be reduced to scientific-technical knowledge alone, but must be constantly inspired by your human and humanizing relationship with the sick.”

He told them: “Taking care of women and men, of children and elderly, in every phase of their life, from birth to death, you are tasked with continuous listening, aimed at understanding what the needs of that patient are, in the phase that he or she is experiencing. Before the uniqueness of each situation, indeed, it is never enough to follow a protocol, but a constant...effort of discernment and attention to the individual person is required.”

He told the nurses and the midwives, “You are close to people at crucial moments in their existence—birth and death, disease and healing—helping them deal with traumatic situations. Sometimes you find yourself at their side as they are dying, giving comfort and relief in their last moments. Because of your dedication, you are among the ‘saints next door.’”

Moreover, he said, “You are an image of the church as a ‘field hospital’ that continues to carry out the mission of Jesus Christ, who drew near to and healed people with all kinds of sickness and who stooped down to wash the feet of his disciples.” He thanked them for their “service to humanity.”

Francis expressed a special word of appreciation for midwives “who assist women in their pregnancies and help them give birth to their children.” He told them, “Your work is among the most noble of professions, for it is directly dedicated to the service of life and of motherhood.”

He expressed the hope that today’s celebration “may highlight the dignity of your work for the benefit of the health of society as a whole.” He concluded by imparting his blessing to all nurses and midwives and assuring them “of my prayers for you, your families and those for whom you care.”

We don’t have comments turned on everywhere anymore. We have recently relaunched the commenting experience at America and are aiming for a more focused commenting experience with better moderation by opening comments on a select number of articles each day.

But we still want your feedback. You can join the conversation about this article with us in social media on Twitter or Facebook, or in one of our Facebook discussion groups for various topics.

Or send us feedback on this article with one of the options below:

We welcome and read all letters to the editor but, due to the volume received, cannot guarantee a response.

In order to be considered for publication, letters should be brief (around 200 words or less) and include the author’s name and geographic location. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

We open comments only on select articles so that we can provide a focused and well-moderated discussion on interesting topics. If you think this article provides the opportunity for such a discussion, please let us know what you'd like to talk about, or what interesting question you think readers might want to respond to.

If we decide to open comments on this article, we will email you to let you know.

If you have a message for the author, we will do our best to pass it along. Note that if the article is from a wire service such as Catholic News Service, Religion News Service, or the Associated Press, we will not have direct contact information for the author. We cannot guarantee a response from any author.

We welcome any information that will help us improve the factual accuracy of this piece. Thank you.

Please consult our Contact Us page for other options to reach us.

When you click submit, this article page will reload. You should see a message at the top of the reloaded page confirming that your feedback has been received.

[Explore America’s in-depth coverage of Pope Francis.]

Advertisement

The latest from america

Tucker Redding, S.J. guides listeners through contemplative prayer in this 10-part limited series "Imagine: A Guide to Jesuit Prayer."
Pope Francis touches a Marian icon as he leaves at the end of a vigil, ahead of Pentecost Sunday, at the Vatican June 8, 2019. (CNS photo/Remo Casilli, Reuters)
The pope’s message poses a sharp challenge to a movement known more for personal conversion and evangelization than practical mercy.
Austen IvereighMay 30, 2020
A woman in Minneapolis expresses her anger and frustration on May 28, at the site where George Floyd was pinned down on May 25 by a police officer; he was later pronounced dead at a local hospital. (CNS photo/Dave Hrbacek, The Catholic Spirit)
"Indifference is not an option," said the chairmen of seven committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. They stated "unequivocally" that "racism is a life issue."
Pope Francis prays after leading the recitation of the rosary during a prayer service at the Lourdes grotto in the Vatican Gardens on May 30. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Pope Francis led the recitation of rosary and asked Mary to intercede to save the world from the pandemic in the Vatican Gardens at a replica of the grotto at Lourdes, France.