Pope Francis always makes a point of visiting the sick, whether on an Apostolic journey abroad, or back home in Rome. But his visit to the Zimpeto Hospital, outside the Mozambican capital of Maputo, was special.
The DREAM Project
That is because the hospital houses the “Dream Center” for people suffering from HIV-AIDS. “DREAM” is an acronym for “Disease Relief through Excellent and Advanced Means”. The project was launched in 2002 by Sant’Egidio, a lay Catholic movement centered on peace and helping the poor. The programme offers free healthcare to the economically disadvantaged and to those who cannot easily access medical facilities.
Facts and figures from Sant’Egidio
According to Sant’Egidio, around 23% of the adult population in Maputo alone suffers from HIV-AIDS. An estimated 200,000 patients have been treated in an additional 12 DREAM centers throughout Mozambique. The centers have also provided free training to around 5,000 health professionals, and offer courses in AIDS prevention and treatment.
Sant’Egidio estimates that in the 17 years of its existence, the Zimpeto DREAM Center has served 3,800 patients, and has helped 500 children of HIV-positive mothers be born free of the virus.
The parable of the Good Shepherd
Pope Francis’ first reaction when he arrived at the center, was to say how the “competence, professionalism and love” shown the patients, especially the mothers and children suffering from HIV-AIDS, made him think of the parable of the Good Shepherd.
“All those who come here, in anguish and despair, are like the man lying on the side of the road”, he said. “This Centre shows us that there are always people ready to stop and show compassion”. “You have heeded the silent, almost inaudible, cry of countless women, so many of them living in shame, marginalized and judged by all”.
Hearing the cry of the poor
“The poor do not need intermediaries”, continued the Pope, “but the personal involvement of all those who hear their cry”. “Hearing this cry has made you realize that medical treatment, however necessary, is not enough”, he said. “So you deal with the problem in its entirety, restoring dignity to women and children, and helping to point them towards a better future”.
Listening to the cry of the environment
“Listening to the most vulnerable of the poor and the sick puts us in contact with another part of our vulnerable world”, said Pope Francis. He quoted the “symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life”.
“Your listening is leading you to find sustainable means in the search for energy and for gathering and storing supplies of water”, added the Pope. “Your concern for low environmental impact is a virtuous model, an example to be followed, in the light of the urgent situation created by the deterioration of our planet”.
Smiles and dreams
By way of conclusion, Pope Francis returned to the parable of the Good Samaritan that ends with him promising to pay the innkeeper the remainder of any expenses upon his return. “All those nameless persons who today smile because they have been cured with dignity in their dignity, are part of the payment that the Lord has left with you”, said the Pope. “Their willingness to dream can serve as an inspiration to many people lying on the wayside who need a welcoming hand”.