Vatican official voices support for universal health care

Even while lawsuits have been filed in federal courts in the U.S. by Catholic bishops and institutions over a Health and Human Services mandate that requires birth control coverage at Catholic institutions as part of the Obama administration's healthcare reform, Vatican officials signaled their contention that universal healthcare is a goal of Catholic social doctrine.

Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, who led a delegation from the Vatican to the 65th World Health Assembly, spoke to the assembly in Geneva on May 23. The archbishop reaffirmed the Vatican's support for Resolution WHA64.9 of the assembly on "sustainable health financing structures and universal coverage", which urges member States to aim for affordable universal coverage and access for all citizens on the basis of equity and solidarity." The assembly started on May 21, and continues until May 26.

Archbishop Zimowki said that Pope Benedict has emphasized the importance of establishing "real distributive justice which, on the basis of objective needs, guarantees adequate care to all. Consequently, if it is not to become inhuman, the world of healthcare cannot disregard the moral rules that must govern it". He also noted that "more countries, especially those with emerging economies, are moving towards universal coverage", thanks also to "good policies that promote equity. ... Therefore my delegation strongly believes that in the endeavour to promote universal coverage, fundamental values such as equity, human rights and social justice need to become explicit policy objectives", he said.

He also appealed to developed countries to show greater solidarity towards poorer nations and provide further funding for healthcare. Archbishop Zimowski quoted  "Caritas in veritate" in which Pope Benedict wrote,  "More economically developed nations should do all they can to allocate larger portions of their gross domestic product to development aid, thus respecting the obligations that the international community has undertaken in this regard".

Archbishop Zimowski affirmed that "progress towards universal coverage cannot be the effort of State machinery alone. It requires support from civil society. ... With over 120,000 social and healthcare institutions worldwide, the Catholic Church is in many developing countries one of the key partners of the State in healthcare delivery, providing services in remote areas to rural low-income populations, enabling them to access services that would otherwise be out of their reach. The efforts and contribution of such organisations and institutions towards universal access, merit the recognition and support of both the State and the international community, without obliging them to participate in activities they find morally abhorrent".



Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.

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