VATICAN CITY, MAR 9, 1998 (VIS) - The officials and staff of the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers were received today by the Pope during their fourth plenary assembly, now underway in the Vatican.

The Holy Father referred to the first 13 years' work of the council, which he instituted in 1985, and to its "brisk and dynamic commitment ... in a delicate and often tormented sector."

"Unfortunately," he remarked, "the beneficial action of protecting and defending health finds obstacles not only in the multiple pathogenic factors ... which threaten life on earth, but also sometimes in the mentality and behavior of men. Arrogance, violence, war, drugs, kidnapping people, the marginalization of immigrants, abortion and euthanasia are attacks on life which depend on human initiative.

"Totalitarian ideologies, which have debased man to an object, trampling and evading basic human rights, are verified in a worrisome way in certain exploitations of biochemical potentialities, which manipulate life in the name of an immense ambition for domination which deforms aspirations and hopes, multiplying troubles and sufferings."

John Paul II said that "the concept of health cannot be limited to just meaning the absence of illness. ... Health concerns the well-being of the entire person, his biophysical, mental and spiritual states."

"The objectives that you pursue," he told council members, "are the reflection on an operative level of the task which Jesus transmitted to his Church: to serve life! ... Every act of assistance to a sick person, whether in avant-garde health structures or simple ones of developing countries, when done with a spirit of faith and with fraternal delicacy, becomes in a very real sense an act of religion." AC/HEALTH CARE WORKERS/... VIS 980309 (280)

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