World Health Day: the Catholic church and health care

The Roman Catholic Church is the largest non-government provider of health care services in the world. It has around 18,000 clinics, 16,000 homes for the elderly and those with special needs, and 5,500 hospitals – with 65% of them located in developing countries. In 2010, The Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Health Care Workers said that the Church manages 26% of the world’s health care facilities.

Ancient origins

The Church’s involvement with health care has ancient origins. Jesus Christ instructed his followers to heal the sick. Early Christians were noted for tending to the sick, and the Christian emphasis on charity gave rise to the development of nursing and care facilities.

The influential rule of Saint Benedict holds that "the care of the sick is to be placed above and before every other duty, as if indeed Christ were being directly served by waiting on them.”

At the heart of the Church’s mission

In the bible, Jesus is recorded as instructing the apostles to make disciples of all nations. The verse is referred to by Catholic missionaries as the Great Commission and inspires missionary work.

Missionary work of the Catholic Church has often been undertaken outside defined parishes and dioceses by religious orders who have the people and material resources to spare for those in marginalised areas.

One of the most famous Catholic missionaries is Mother Teresa. Soon after the end of World War II, she felt a calling from God to work with the poorest half of India’s half a million citizens.

She established the Missionaries of Charity in 1950 . Over time, her extraordinary charity and compassion came to the attention of the international community, inspiring countless other organisations to follow her example by helping the poor and societies’ ‘undesirables’ in many Third World countries. Mother Teresa went on the win the Nobel Peace prize in 1979.

Catholic Church’s work with AIDS patients

In Africa, the Church is heavily engaged in providing care to AIDS sufferers. Following the election of Pope Francis in 2013, UNAIDS wrote that the Church “provides to millions of people living with HIV/AIDS around the world.”

Statistics from the Vatican in 2012 indicated that Catholic church-related organisations provide approximately a quarter of all HIV/AIDS treatment, care and support throughout the world.

Catholic Mission

Catholic Mission is the Australian agency of the international Pontifical Mission Societies. In over 160 countries, we continue Jesus Christ’s mission in the world: that all may have life to the full.

Catholic Mission form people for mission and raise funds for mission, both here in Australia and around the world.

Supporters of Catholic Mission have helped fund projects in Africa, Asia-Pacific, South America and remote communities of Australia for over 175 years. Their generous contributions have built churches and schools, delivered community health programs, supplied water and sanitation facilities and brought the Good News of the Gospel to some of the most isolated regions of the world.

Caritas International

Pope Francis says, “a Church without charity does not exist,” and has called for a “church for the poor.”

As the international aid and charity agency of the Catholic church, Caritas International shares the mission to serve the poor and promote charity and justice throughout the world.

Its member organisations link together in a confederation to serve the world’s poor, vulnerable, dispossessed and marginalized. Caritas is inspired by Scripture, Catholic Social Teaching and by the experiences and hopes of people who are disadvantaged and living in poverty.

In March, Caritas Australia responded to the earthquake emergency in Papua New Guinea. Caritas delivered urgent assistance including basic supplies like food, water and first aid, as well as supporting long-term needs like shelter.

Support in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle

CatholicCare is the official social services agency of the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

CatholicCare is committed to providing excellence in care and assistance that is accessible and affordable in the areas of children, youth and family services, disability services, community engagement and mental wellbeing.

DARA (Development and Relief Agency) identifies, reaches out and supports those in our community who are disadvantage, marginalised, oppressed or isolated by cultural, ethnic or religious differences.

DARA provides practical assistance, an opportunity for socialisation and a pathway to integration via access to educational and vocational programs. 

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