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Pope leads tributes on International Nurses Day

By Sarah Mac Donald - 13 May, 2020

Four members of the Dublin diocesan pilgrimage nursing team: Rosaleen O’ Malley, Breege Meehan, Siobhan O’ Brien and Karen Gallagher. (Pic John McElroy)

Pope Francis led tributes to nurses and healthcare workers on International Nurses Day saying the COVID-19 pandemic had shown how fundamental the role of the nurse is and describing them as “guardians of life”.

In his message to nurses, the Pope said that due to the global health emergency “we have rediscovered the fundamental importance of the role being played by nurses and midwives”.

Each day, during this critical time, we witness the courage and sacrifices made by healthcare workers and by “nurses in particular”, the Pope said.

Highlighting how they dedicate themselves, “to the point of putting their own health at risk”, he said sadly, this has been demonstrated by the high number of healthcare workers who have died “as a result of their faithful service”.

On International Nurses Day, the Pontiff said, “I pray for them and for all the victims of this epidemic. The Lord knows each of them by name.”

“Nurses have historically played a central role in health care”, he said and noted that Tuesday marked the  bicentennial of the birth of Florence Nightingale, “the pioneer of modern nursing”.

He described nurses as some of the saints next door, “guardians and preservers of life” who never cease to offer “courage, hope and trust” as they administer necessary treatment.

“You are an image of the Church as a ‘field hospital’ that continues to carry out the mission of Jesus Christ, who drew near to and healed people with all kinds of sickness and who stooped down to wash the feet of his disciples. Thank you for your service to humanity”, he said.

Stressing that nurses deserve to be more fully valued and their working conditions improved, Pope Francis said the pandemic had brought to light healthcare deficiencies in some countries.

“For this reason, I would ask leaders of nations throughout the world to invest in healthcare as the primary common good, by strengthening its systems and employing greater numbers of nurses, so as to ensure adequate care to everyone, with respect for the dignity of each person,” he said.

Pope Francis highlighted the importance of enhancing nurses and midwives’ professionalism with the “scientific, human, psychological and spiritual tools” necessary for their training, “so that they can carry out their service in full dignity”.

Closer to home, the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Dr William Henry, spoke of his deep admiration for all nurses, especially at this current time.

“In the short time since, my appreciation for our health services, North and South, along with my overwhelming thankfulness for the work that our nurses do in hospitals, surgeries and care homes across Ireland, has grown and grown. It is an understatement to say that these are desperately challenging times, especially for our nurses on the front line, who face Coronavirus selflessly at close quarters each and every day.”

“They are in my thoughts and prayers, as are our nurses who continue to provide daily, routine care for patients, but who are also on that same frontline,” Dr Henry said.

“As we acknowledge all our nurses on International Nurses Day, their skill, dedication and compassion, I believe that Florence Nightingale would have been proud of those who followed in her footsteps. A pride that is shared by my Church, and those beyond its bounds.”

Live streaming of Masses and Services from churches in Ireland and the UK can be found here: http://churchservices.tv

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