By Dave Andrusko
Tip of the hat to The Crux for a fine story about Pope Francis’s uplifting visit last week with a group of people suffering from Huntington’s Disease and their families at the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall in Rome.
Huntington’s Disease, though rare, is devastating. “Huntington’s is an inherited disorder that results in the death of brain cells,” correspondent Inés San Martín explained. “Although the symptoms may vary from one patient to the other, it affects mental abilities, generates a lack of coordination, and as it advances, uncoordinated, jerky body movements become more apparent.”
The Pope’s message was one of great encouragement; of a fierce reminder that we are all “precious in the eyes of God,” regardless of illness; and an utter refusal to adopt an ends-justifies-the-means rationale for research that scavenges the bodies of unborn babies.
Pope Francis addressed an audience, San Martin reported, that included a group of people living with Huntington’s Disease, their families, neuroscientists, researchers and caretakers, saying that “In many cases, the sick and their families have experienced the tragedy of shame, isolation and abandonment.”
Pope Francis told geneticists and scientists that “there is a great deal of expectation” regarding their work, since on it rests the hopes of finding a way to cure the disease, but also of improving the living conditions of those suffering from Huntington’s.
However, he said, finding the cure must be done in a way that doesn’t fuel the “throw-away culture” that at times “infiltrates even the world of scientific research.”
The Pope went on to say, “Some branches of research, in fact, utilize human embryos, inevitably causing their destruction,” adding, “But we know that no ends, even noble in themselves, such as a predicted utility for science, for other human beings or for society, can justify the destruction of human embryos.”
San Martín ended her story by providing additional details about the moving visit and the Pope’s sage counsel:
Before delivering his remarks, Francis was shown a video of several patients, all of them from some of the poorest neighborhoods of Latin America.
For instance, Zoe Cruz came with her mother, both from Puerto Rico. Zoe’s mother was in a wheel chair, barely capable of talking. Zoe herself soon will have the first symptoms appear.
Talking to those with the disease, Francis told them that for Jesus, “disease is never an obstacle to encountering people, but rather, the contrary.”
“Fragility is not an illness,” the pope said. “And disease, which is an expression of fragility, cannot and must not make us forget that in the eyes of God our value is always priceless. Disease can also be an opportunity for encounter, for sharing, for solidarity. The sick people who encountered Jesus were restored above all by this awareness.”