Palliative Care: at the beginning of a new humanity

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Kigali, Rwanda, September 20th.- Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, has spoken during the morning session of the Sixth International African Palliative Care Conference (Kigali, Rwanda).

"Ignorance - he said - is still the main barrier to the development of palliative care, and not only in Africa".  "It is crucial to work with governments to obtain financial support (currently not available) for palliative care.  We know that a key objective is to make palliative care sustainable and accessible for all; and this can only be accomplished by including palliative in national healthcare budgets".

"A model that is already available in Africa and that is effective is cooperation between religious personnel (of different denominations and religions) and institutions.  Religious professionals support different aspects of care, not just spiritual care.  Most hospices are non-governmental (organizations or churches).  In many countries, partnership still plays an important role in achieving concrete, clinical, research and training objectives.  Personally, I hope that Catholic institutions will become even more actively involved in this work".  

"It will certainly be necessary to work in a targeted way with individual institutions to train for palliative care and integrate it.  There are countries without palliative care and where it needs to be introduced:  Liberia, Chad, Burundi, South Sudan.  There is also the disadvantage with respect to palliative care that rural areas suffer compared to cities".  

We want to oppose the “throw-away culture”—and we know how pervasive it is in most of contemporary society—by promoting a “palliative care culture,” both to respond to the temptation to support euthanasia and assisted suicide, and above all to spread as widely as possible the culture of caring for others that enables us to stay close to the sick and dying until the end.

The PAL-LIFE Project: An International Advisory Working Group for the Spread and Development of Palliative Care in the World.  The Project was launched by the Pontifical Academy for Life in April 2017 to put into action the proposal expressed by Pope Francis in his speech to the participants in the Annual Meeting of the Pontifical Academy for Life on March 5, 2015.  

In particular, a White Book for Global Palliative Care Advocacy has been drafted.  It is intended to be a working document for the implementation of palliative care.  It presents the most important recommendations for the various stakeholder groups involved in the development of global palliative care.  Published in English, the White Book has already been translated into German and Italian.  Spanish and Portuguese translations will be available soon. We are in the process of sending the White Book to Catholic universities and Catholic hospitals throughout the world.

"I am certain that this Sixth International African Palliative Care Conference will offer a positive contribution to making palliative care, which every day is called on to face great challenges in accompanying the dying, more widely known and more fruitful in the promotion of a new humanism, in solidarity with all. The unity of the human family is the great dream that fascinates us all. Let us work so that our brothers and sisters in Africa become the brothers and sisters of all peoples. I believe that all of us who are passionate about caring for the sick are truly at the beginning of a new humanity".

Kigali, Rwanda, September 20, 2019


Abp. Paglia has visited the Rwanda’s first Center for Palliative Care (Hospice John Paul II in Kabuga)

September 19, 2019

The Palliative Care Center - Hospice John Paul II was blessed by H.E. Thaddée Ntihunyirwa, Archbishop of Kigali on May 2nd, 2013 in the presence of H.E. Archbishop Luciano Russo, Apostolic Nuncio in Rwanda.

In this Center, founded by the Sisters of the Angels, sick people suffering from chronic diseases such as cancer (and other incurable sicknesses) get all the necessary care during this terminal phase of their sufferings. This first establishment of the kind in Rwanda received the authorization to open from the Ministry of Health in August 2013.

(The story follows after the pictures)



The Congregation of the Sisters of the Angels arrived in Rwanda in 1984. From the very beginning, through various apostolic activities, the Sisters sought to find an answer for the spiritual and social needs of the Rwandan people, and especially so health and pedagogical services. They operate mostly in health care centers, food distribution centers, dental clinics, sewing and embroidering shops, and supervision and animation in favor of youth and children.

This idea of building a center for palliative care was born after many years of observation and experience on the part of the Sisters while working with sick people and more so with those abandoned by their families because they were incapable of taking proper care of these members of their families.

This establishment’s goal is to help families whose life conditions do not allow them to give proper care to those who are sick. In this Center, sick people are hospitalized and receive proper care (diminishing of pain, checking all symptoms of the type of sickness, and proper meals).

Recreational therapy (music, reading of stories by volunteers, and video for those who can walk) is also available.  

The health situation of the sick as well as their needs are very well followed by qualified staff members (doctors, nurses, social assistants and a psychologist) who are helped by well formed volunteers. It is a question of caring both for their soul and body, and not only to accompany the ones who are about to die.   

The fact that the Shrine of Divine Mercy is very near, as well as the parish church and that Christians are committed in their work as volunteers is of great help in order to realize our objectives.

We accept all sick people no matter what their religious confession is.

Pope John Paul II said: “A man who suffers calls upon another man. He needs his help. He needs his presence. We are often intimidated because we are helpless to do something for someone who suffers. Perhaps, more than recovering his health, he needs our presence, our heart and our solidarity”.

The Sisters of the Angels want to respond to this appeal in Rwanda through this Center of palliative care, which is a living monument of  Pope Saint John Paul II who all through his life has always fought in favor of life from the very moment of conception until a natural death.

During a 6 year period, 180 patients have been taken care of in our hospice. The oldest person among them was 100 years old and the youngest one 4 years old. The great majority of them were suffering from one kind or other of cancer.

For the past 3 years we have invited a physiotherapist who, in spite of the meager means of the Center, makes the sick do exercises and does massages for them. This is possible because of the collaboration with a team at the Center which evaluates the degree of suffering and takes into account the degree of tiredness. In spite of our efforts and of our good will, we are very limited as far as space is concerned – we would need a hall uniquely for rehabilitation.

A great challenge at the Center is the use of pampers. We have to go several times a week to Masaka at the Pallottine Sisters’ health center in order to incinerate them. The cost of transporting them and getting rid of them is quite great. This is why we plan to find a way of buying our own incinerator here at the Center.

Although we encounter many difficulties, we do not lose hope and we keep on looking for different ways of coming to the help of the poor and needy.

We also care for those children who have lost their parents at our Center for palliative care. Till now we have thus helped 13 children. 5 of them have become adults while others are completing their studies.

We are encouraged by the words of our Founder, the Servant of God, Wincenty Kluczynski ( Archbishop of  Mohylev from 1910-1914), who said: “Pray with confidence, suffer with love, and work in calm and silence”, and thus we continue our apostolate among those who suffer the most.   

11.09.2019                                                           Sr. Maria Piątek CSA