The Texas Annual Conference and the Vatican Issue the Palliative Care Joint Declaration
By: Sherri Gragg
On September 19, 2018, Bishop Scott Jones and Archbishop Vencenzo Paglia, President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, signed the Palliative Care Joint Declaration.
During a conference at Houston Methodist hospital, hosted by the Methodist Center and the Pontifical Academy for Life, Bishop Scott Jones and Archbishop Vencenzo Paglia signed the Palliative Care Joint Declaration. This week, we sat down with Bishop Jones to discuss the declaration and the art of dying well.
Q: How did this partnership with the Vatican and Archbishop Paglia come about?
A: The Texas Annual Conference has a strong relationship with the Houston Methodist hospital, and I serve on the Board of Directors. Dr. Mauro Ferrari is the head of the Research Institute there. He is also a practicing Catholic and a fellow on the Pontifical Academy for Life. He is the connector between the Texas Annual Conference and the Vatican. It makes sense to work together on an issue we both care about.
Q: Why should palliative care be a priority for followers of Christ?
A: Both the United Methodist and Catholic churches oppose euthanasia. We also know that sometimes the last stages of illness can be difficult and painful. Therefore, supporting care that eases the transition of this life into the next one is an important part of both medicine and the church’s ministry. “Palliative” is an interesting word. It talks about shrouding pain, covering it. Some have said a better term is “supportive care.” We want to help people manage pain but have the kind of spiritual and physical support that makes a difference.
Q: Do you think that we have lost the understanding of what it means to die well?
A: We have definitely lost what it means to die well. John Wesley talked about the art of “holy dying.” As Christians, we should face death with deep faith and the understanding that God is going to be with us no matter what happens.
Q: The statement from the Vatican mentions defending the “dignity of every person no matter their condition.” Talk a bit about the importance of imparting dignity in ministry.
A: We believe that every human being is created in the image of God. Our commitment to human dignity and the care for all persons reflects the value of each life and the importance of loving that person. Jesus commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves. That means respect of them and care for them in as many ways as possible.
Q: How can churches get involved in palliative care?
A: We think that pastors and people who are caregivers ought to get educated about the dying process. A number of our congregations are involved in hospice ministry. We want to encourage people to find the training that will help them provide spiritual and emotional care for the dying. We also hope for physicians to research how to enhance quality of life up until the moment of death.
The full text of the Palliative Care Joint Declaration is available here.