The Holy See
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Wednesday, 15 May 2002

Mr President,
Madam Director General,
Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I cordially greet you in the name of the Holy See whose Delegation I have the honour of leading. We have heard so much about the great risks that threaten health today: 17 million people have recently died from infectious diseases and malnutrition; 2.7 million from AIDS, 2.2 million from diarrhoea, 1.7 million from tuberculosis and 1 million from malaria. In addition to the statistics for infectious diseases there are the great number of deaths caused by tobacco addiction, alcoholism, cancer, other degenerative diseases, unhealthy life-styles, lack of hygiene, drugs, road accidents and accidents in the workplace, the abuse of medecines or their unavailability due to their exorbitant price, and mental illnesses such as the current increase in depression.

Neo-Malthusian anti-life mentality formulates policy for women and the dying

It is essential to point out as an obvious threat to health: the neo-Malthusian anti-life mentality (since health and life are identified), underlying reproductive health policies, especially those proposed for the Third World and, particularly, a mistaken concept of what "quality of life" means, that in some places has led to the legalization of euthanasia. Nor can we forget to mention environmental pollution, hunger, armed conflicts and natural disasters.

"Microbial" unification of world population

Mr President, there is another risk to which I would like to draw attention: today a "microbial" unification exists today, that, due to the increasing mobility of the population, enables contagious diseases to spead, infecting rich and poor: viruses and bacteria have no fixed boundaries.

Moreover, due largely to economic and informational globalization, the routines of productivity constitute homogenous workplaces that carry with them a homogeneous weakening of the population and hence give rise to tumours and to degenerative and psychological illnesses.

Spirituality of Health

Here in the WHO three priority areas have been identified that aim at making globalization something more beneficial to health:

1. The need for a more effective global governance that can guarantee the creation of political consensus and decisions that pay heed to people's real health needs.

2. The need to impart and disseminate an adequate knowledge of health matters to inform those who make decisions as well as the general public.

3. The support of globalization in the area of health, promoting action on both local and national levels, to achieve better health, especially for those whom economic globalization ignores.

Universal common good of health

In this regard, we not only list the dangers but also their solutions. Mr President, in order to develop a more effective global governance, our Delegation would like to make a positive contribution: in Alma Ata everyone spoke of three aspects of health, physical, mental and social.

One great risk is that people may eventually accept being closed in on themselves, or feel that more importance is given to one rather than to another. But we are communicating vessels. We can say that health depends on a kind of overall harmony. This harmony impels us to go out of ourselves and use our physical strength and psychological transparency to create a social and environmental solidarity. The global plan of life and health that aims at bringing everything into an overall unity is what some of us call the spirituality of health. It consists in overcoming individualist preoccupation with self to live for others. It is a dynamic tension toward harmony, to create better living conditions, and, consequently, healthier living conditions for all humanity, with a preferential option for the poorest and neediest. It consists in creating the "international common good" of health.

Many thanks.

*L'Osservatore Romano. Weekly Edition in English n.23 p.10.