The Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States tells the UN General Assembly that faith has a vital role to play in healthcare.

By Joseph Tulloch

“Health,” Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher has told United Nations General Assembly, “is not a luxury; it is for all.”

The Archbishop, who is the Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States and International Organisations, was speaking at the High Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage at the 78th UN General Assembly.

“Despite progress in expanding access to quality and affordable healthcare,” he continued, “it remains out of reach for far too many, particularly in developing countries.”

Moreover, Archbishop Gallagher noted, it is often precisely those who are not able to afford healthcare that most need it, since “the effects of poverty, such as hunger and malnutrition, inadequate housing, and unsafe working conditions, increase vulnerability to disease.”

Thus, he said, as well as working for universal access to quality healthcare, states should remember that these efforts cannot be separated from “broader development efforts, particularly social protection, education, and decent work.”

The role of faith in healthcare

In his address, Archbishop Gallagher also stressed the role that faith organisations play in providing healthcare across the globe. Approximately one quarter of all healthcare facilities, he said, are Catholic, and in some places “faith-based organizations are the only healthcare providers.”

Another service provided by faith-based healthcare, he stressed, is its witness to “the inalienable dignity of the person”, its focus “on healing and accompanying each person in his or her totality.”

The Archbishop went on to warn against the dangers of “an increasingly consumerist approach, where doctors act as mere service providers to wealthy clients, fulfilling and profiting from their individual desires.”

He brought his speech to a conclusion by stressing the Holy See’s commitment to promoting healthcare which answers “above all to the healthcare demands of the poorest, the excluded and those, who for economic or cultural reasons, see that their needs are not met”.

Reform of the UN

On the same day, Archbishop Gallagher also spoke at the UN’s Summit of the Future, which aims to “strengthen global governance for the sake of present and future generations.”

The theme of the Archbishop’s speech was “hope”, which, he said, is “deeply rooted in every human heart.” The Holy See, he continued, has “plac[ed] hope” in the activities of the United Nations from its very beginning.” At the same time, he stressed, “Popes have not shied away from highlighting the pressing need for reform of the Organization so that the concept of the family of nations can acquire real teeth.”

The Summit of the Future, Archbishop Gallagher said, represents a real opportunity to reform the UN, particularly if “undertaken in the spirit of true multilateralism.” This, he said, “calls for the pursuit of consensus, to avoid power being co-opted only by a few countries and to prevent cultural impositions.”

“United as one human family,” the Archbishop concluded, “may we choose to embrace hope, for hope is the door that opens onto the future.”


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