Overcoming fear of death together

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Overcoming fear of death together, hand in hand.

Msgr. Vincenzo Paglia’s address on Graduation Day of the Catholic University

Rome, 20 November 2018 -. We must be careful not to become accomplices of death says Msgr. Vincenzo Paglia. He was addressing the theme "The dignity of living and dying: where does it begin and where does it end?" Tuesday afternoon at the Polyclinic University Foundation Agostino Gemelli Irccs (Aula Brasca), marking the Catholic University’s Graduation Day for graduates in the Masters course in Palliative Care and Pain Therapy. Msgr. Vincenzo Paglia is President of the Pontifical Academy for Life and Grand Chancellor of the Pontifical John Paul II Theological Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences.

Msgr. Paglia traced the current social and cultural context: the progress in medicine and medical care that lengthens life, the growing demand for euthanasia as a justification for a "dignified death", the loneliness of the dying often abandoned to themselves.

The real question - underlined Msgr. Paglia - is "how to die with dignity, not to anticipate death". "Christianity does not preach love of death, nor indifference to dying. What it does however, is encourage us to surround death with love, to prevent death from triumphing over the hope of life, to prevent death from casing harm. Otherwise, the nihilistic side of death triumphs when it induces despair towards love so as to make it appear a futile and senseless effort”.

"It should not be forgotten that the demand for euthanasia or assisted suicide is in almost all cases the result of the therapeutic (and social) abandonment of the patient. Once a valid multidisciplinary care of the patient has been put in place and the family is positively involved in the treatment process, it is very rare to find a request for death ".

The "challenge" lies in "taking care" of people with an attitude of "responsible closeness". "Taking those who are dying by the hand, is one of the most urgent and profound human practices that needs to be resumed. Generally, one flees in the face of death, there is a sort of general tendency to flee, "everyone-for-oneself", so as not to feel, and above all, not to experience embarrassment. Concentration on oneself is preferred to closeness to those in need. But this is far from liberating; on the contrary, we impoverish ourselves even more. Nobody wants to die alone. We all desire to be accompanied in difficult times, especially in that of death ". "The same doctors and nurses must be educated to listen and to the relationship with those who are about to die. Of course, it is the responsibility of relatives and friends to be close to those who are dying, starting from the simplest of gestures, as simple as holding someone’s hands. Faced with the vertigo of death, that holding of hands has an unimaginable value: it means a bond, love, security. The love that those hands transmit close to the end, or those hands that caress, that cleanse, that help those also are struggling against pain and agony, those hands are defeating death. Death, in fact, can put an end to life, but not to relationships. Love is always stronger than death ".

Rome, 20 November 2018

Lectio - Palliative Care - Rome, November 20th