ADDRESS OF THE HOLY
Geneva, Switzerland, 15 May 2002
I bring cordial greetings to you on behalf of the Holy See Delegation, which I am honored to lead. We have heard about the great number of risks that the present times pose to health: 17 million people have died from infectious diseases and nutritional deficiencies; 2.7 million from AIDS, 2.2 millions from diarrhea, 1.7 from tuberculosis and 1 million died of malaria. To this group of diseases we could add: a greater number of deaths due to tobacco and alcohol, cancer and other degenerative diseases, drugs, unhealthy lifestyles and bad hygienic habits, work and car accidents, abuse of medicines or the denied access to them because of the high costs, and mental illnesses, like depression which is increasing today. We have to note with particular concern the serious risk of the anti-life Malthusian mentality (given that health and life are identical), which is present both in the Reproductive Health Programs, proposed mainly for developing countries, and especially in the misunderstood concept of the quality of life that has been taken on by some nations to legalize the euthanasia. We cannot forget environmental pollution, hunger, armed conflicts and natural catastrophes.
Mr. President, I would like to underline the following risk factor: there is a world wide microbial unification, whereby, due to the increasing mobility of populations, infectious diseases are easily spread everywhere, both among the rich and the poor. Viruses and bacteria have no frontiers. The globalization of the economy and technology generates homogeneous production processes that lead to homogeneous working patterns, which often bear homogeneous side-effect on the people involved in the processes, such as tumoral, degenerative and psychological diseases.
In fact, in order to render globalization favorable to health, the World Health Organization, had pointed out three priorities: 1. The need for a more effective global governance, which could guarantee that the real health needs of people will be taken into consideration when consensus and political decisions are formulated. 2. The necessity to generate and diffuse the appropriate knowledge in order to inform the decision makers and the common people on health issues. 3. Support the globalization in the area of health and promote actions on the local and national levels in order to ensure better health, especially for those who are left out or excluded by the globalization of the economy.
Therefore, at this junction we do not just have before us the risks to human health, but we are also offered means towards finding solutions to these problems. Mr. President, my Delegation would also like to collaborate towards the development of a more effective global governance: at Alma Ata, health was presented under three aspects: physical, mental and social wellbeing. The great risk would be considering each of these aspects independently, or taking one of them as being more important than the others. They are like interconnected vessels, and we may say that health consists in the harmony between them. This harmony urges the person to go out of him or herself and to use their physical ability and psychic self-transparence to create the social and environmental solidarity. The global project of life and health, that harmonizes everything, is what has been called spirituality of health. It consists in overcoming the closed individualism in order to live for the others. It is a dynamic tension towards harmony, seeking to create new conditions of life, and therefore new conditions of health for all humanity, with preferential care for the poor and needy people. It consists in creating the "international common good" of Health.
Thank you, Mr. President.