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Vatican COVID-19 chief to speak at ACU forum

Mental health, public health, a pandemic, human dignity, scientific rigour and solidarity: an upcoming online conference will be of particular interest to medical practitioners and healthcare workers

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An elderly woman receives an injection with a dose of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Vallecas nursing home in Madrid on 27 December 2020. Photo: CNS, Comunidad de Madrid handout via Reuters

Australian Catholic University, Catholic Health Australia and The Catholic Weekly  will host an important online forum on COVID-19 coinciding with World Day of the Sick on 11 February. 

The forum will discuss mental health, public health and the question of solidarity in the face of the ongoing pandemic.

Titled Vaccines, viruses and vulnerabilities: Catholic health and care of the human person, the forum will explore health topics centred on human dignity as well as scientific rigour. 

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Esteemed guest speakers to be on the panel 

Sister Carol Keehan speaks at the 2013 meeting of the World Economic Forum. Photo: CNS

Key participants on the panel include the current Vatican Commission coordinator for COVID-19 response, Sr Carol Keehan, and Doctor Brian Kane – Senior Director of Ethics of Catholic Health Association in the United States. 

Sr Carol was described in 2010 by Time Magazine as ‘one of the most influential people in the world.’ She is former CEO of the Catholic Health Association of the USA and was an instrumental Catholic figure assisting the Obama Administration in the passage of the  Affordable Care Act, which gave 20 million Americans (often poor and marginalised)  access to health insurance.

The forum will be moderated by Dr David Kirchhoffer, Director of the Queensland Bioethics Centre at ACU.

His Holiness Pope Francis, who has since received a COVID-19 vaccination,  noted the importance of World Day of the Sick as an opportunity to reflect on the work of healthcare professionals during the pandemic as “an opportunity to devote special attention to the sick and to those who provide them with assistance and care both in healthcare institutions and within families and communities.”

Pope Francis signs a card for a nun as he leads his general audience in the San Damaso courtyard at the Vatican on 9 September, 2020. PHOTO: CNS, Paul Haring

“We think in particular of those who have suffered, and continue to suffer, the effects of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic,” Pope Francis said.

health is a primary common good

“Investing resources in the care and assistance of the sick is a priority linked to the fundamental principle that health is a primary common good.”

Practical challenges

Executive Dean of Theology and Philosophy at ACU, Prof Dermot Nestor, said the event will also address the human questions which underlie the practical problems of health. 

A nurse in New York City wipes away tears as police cheer and thank health care workers amid the US coronavirus pandemic. PHOTO CNS, Mike Segar, Reuters

“Health professionals have been working in a crisis mode for many months now and they need a context which acknowledges the values that power their work,” Prof Dermott told The Catholic Weekly.

“ACU is a leading institution both for the training of health professionals and for the study of ethical and religious questions so we are proud to be able to contribute in this way.”

Vaccines, viruses and vulnerabilities: Catholic health and care of the human person is free and open to the general public

Online, details will be provided following registration here
RSVPs are required by Monday 8 February 

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