POPE SPEAKS AT MEDICAL CENTRE
BY JOHN THAVIS, CNS
POPE BENEDICT told hundreds of sick patients at a medical clinic in Cameroon last week that Christ was close to people who suffered.
The Pontiff said he thought that during his trip to Africa it was important to be with people who were suffering in body and spirit.
He told his audience at the Cardinal Paul-Émile Léger Centre, a treatment centre for the disabled: “You are not alone in your pain, for Christ himself is close to all who suffer.” Several hundred people, many from Church-run clinics in Cameroon, crowded into a courtyard at the centre, which is situated on a hillside in a poor neighbourhood of Yaoundé.
The Pope said he recognised that it was not easy to endure sickness or to bring relief to the suffering.
“As our condition deteriorates, our anguish increases; some are tempted to doubt whether God is present in their lives,” he said.
“In the presence of such torment, we feel powerless and we cannot find the right words,” he said. Sometimes a respectful silence or a gesture of tenderness means more than words in these situations, he added.
Most of the Pope’s events in Cameroon had the atmosphere of a rally; this occasion felt more intense. The Pope passed among the sick and disabled, offering a smile, holding their hands and occasionally making the sign of the cross over their heads.
Among those who took solace from the visit was Sabine Ngnekou, who sat in the centre’s courtyard. On her lap was her three-year-old grandson, Stefane, whose badly swollen head was the result of a malignant tumour that appeared a few months ago. Until recently he was attending nursery school with his friends. Now he’s receiving care from a Catholic clinic in the Diocese of Bafoussam.
“It’s a beautiful thing to have the Pope’s blessing,” his grandmother said. “It means something special to our family, but it’s also important for all the sick in Africa to have this visit.” Soon afterward the Pope passed by and, holding Stefane’s head in his hands for several seconds, gave him a big smile.
After walking on the edge of the crowd, the Pope decided to plunge into a seating section of disabled, delighting them and frazzling his security staff.
The Pope recalled that it was an African, Simon of Cyrene, who helped Jesus carry his cross. Health workers everywhere know that it is “hard to carry someone else’s cross”, he said.
“As I stand here today, I am mindful of all the people in hospitals, in specialised health centres or clinics, who suffer from a disability, mental or physical. I also think of those whose flesh bears the scars of wars and violence,” he said.
He prayed for those with Aids, malaria and tuberculosis.