Catholics in Healthcare launch support for healthworkers and patients


Catholics in Healthcare today launched a major initiative to support those who work in healthcare by offering practical information on caring for Catholics and promoting the Catholic ethos of care.

A website,, is being launched along with a series of practical publications offering guidelines for healthworkers and NHS managers & trusts under the banner: Caring for the Catholic Patient. Both publications and website have received cross-party backing with support from the Secretary of State for Health and the Shadow Secretary.

Catholics in Healthcare, backed by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England & Wales, is a voluntary group of Catholics in healthcare who come together to help witness to the Catholic approach to healthcare. The starting point for their work comes from the Church's teaching that Catholics working in healthcare or social care are an important part of Christ's healing ministry and mission.

Bishop Tom Williams, Auxiliary Bishop of Liverpool and Chair of the Catholics in Healthcare Reference Group said: “The Church has a hugely important role in healthcare. We are not trying to teach the healthcare system what to do, nor are we looking for a privileged position. We are trying to show that Catholics have a natural affinity with healthcare, and make a strong and supportive contribution as we continue to work in collaboration with the healthcare system.

“In a healthcare system which (however well-intentioned) risks turning patients into units of care, while making the body an instrument to be treated, the Church witnesses to something more. We witness to the dignity of the whole person, loved and created by God as a spiritual and emotional, not just physical, being.”

“This initiative is also about galvanising Catholics who work in healthcare, promoting our vision of care for the whole person and sharing in Christ’s healing ministry."

Almost 10% of the population of England and Wales is Catholic and demographic changes resulting from immigration means the Catholic population is changing and growing. Catholics in Healthcare, by working effectively with the NHS, is aiming to ensure these publications, the website and future activity will benefit all those who offer and receive healthcare in this country.

Patricia Hewitt, Secretary of State for Health said: “I am pleased that your work supports and fits with the ethos that the NHS provides a service that is responsive, personal to all and one that puts patients’ needs at its centre.

“I read with interest the publications which provides a greater understanding of the role of not only Catholic chaplains but also hospital chaplaincy, in providing spiritual care for both patients and staff.”

Andrew Lansley, shadow secretary of state for health, said: “People admitted to hospital are often at their most vulnerable. At such a time, it is important to consider their spiritual and pastoral needs. NHS staff are well trained to integrate such considerations into their care pathway, and these publications will help them achieve that in respect to the particular needs of Catholic patients.”

Catholics in Healthcare aim to:

  • Work with the Department of Health and NHS nationally and in each diocese to ensure that Catholic patients and healthcare workers are supported.
  • Produce a series of practical publications for Catholics and for NHS workers. The first two: A Guide to Catholic Chaplaincy for NHS Managers & Trusts and Meeting the Pastoral Needs of Catholic Patients are already available for sale from the Catholic Truth Society.
  • Respond appropriately to the needs of Catholics (good practice guide on chaplaincy and guide on pastoral needs of catholic patients forthcoming, national and local work with health agencies)
  • Provide Catholics working in health and social care with opportunities to share nationally and locally with each other (through website: and national and local events)
  • Support those in healthcare chaplaincy (through good practice guidance and other resources as well as national liaison officers for chaplaincy and sources of advice to chaplains and Bishops' Advisers on Healthcare Chaplaincy)
  • Provide networking resources for Catholics (e.g.
  • Hold annual seminar to support Catholics working in Healthcare
  • Provide detailed work to explain the Church’s theology of healthcare and provide resources for the Church.

Over the next year there will be a series of regional events to support healthworkers and roll out the publications across the country, along with other seminars and events leading to a major healthcare conference in 2008. Events already organised are detailed in the editor’s notes below.

Launch Dates
Sunday 18 March Hexham and Newcastle – Service to inaugurate lay preachers and presentation of Keeping Faith publications.  
Tuesday 8 May Guy’s and St Thomas’, London.
Monday 14 May Meeting of Healthcare Chaplains of Westminster to discuss publications.  
Wednesday 6 June Fr Paul Mason presenting the publications to the College of Health Care Chaplains.  
Wednesday – Friday
20 – 22 June
NHS Confederation Conference and Exhibition Catholics in Healthcare stand at the exhibition which the Cardinal is due to visit on Wednesday 20 June; Bishop Williams will be at the stand on 22 June.
Wednesday 27 June Launch in Leeds for the Dioceses of the North East.  
Thursday 28 June Catholics in Healthcare third annual seminar, Guy’s and St Thomas’. 10.30am – 4.30pm
Further information:
Saturday 28 July Clifton Cathedral, Bristol. 10.30am Hospital Workers’ Mass followed by launch of publications  
Saturday 16th February Westminster Cathedral The Cardinal and Area Bishops will be celebrating Mass to mark the World Day of the Sick and the 150th anniversary of the apparitions to St Bernadette of Lourdes.
June/July 2008 – exact dates tbc Catholics in Healthcare international conference St Mary’s University College, Twickenham


For further information, contact:

Alexander DesForges on 020 7901 4807/ email:
To order copies please phone CTS on 020 7640 0042 or email

Editor’s notes

Present at the press conference were representatives of the Catholics in Healthcare group, including:
Bishop Tom Williams, auxiliary Bishop of Liverpool
Chris Butler, Chief Executive of the Leeds Mental Health Teaching NHS Trust
Phil Gray, Chief Executive at the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy
Professor David Jones, Professor of Bioethics at St Mary's University College, Twickenham
Jim McManus, Assistant Director of Health Improvement at Barking and Dagenham PCT and lead public health specialist for the North East London Cardiac Network
Fr Paul Mason, Senior Chaplain at Guy's and St Thomas' Hospitals
Br Francis OSB, a Clinical Nurse Specialist in paediatric oncology and palliative care.
Fr Peter Scott, Westminster Archdiocese Healthcare Chaplaincy Co-ordinator

What is the ethos of Catholics in Healthcare?

The starting point comes from the Church's teaching that Catholics working in healthcare or social care are an important part of Christ's healing ministry and mission. This ethos is informed by the teaching of the Church.

The Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care in its Charter for Health Care Workers said in 1995 that

"The therapeutic ministry of healthcare workers is a sharing in the pastoral and evangelizing work of the Church. Service to life becomes a ministry of salvation....Doctors, nurses, other healthcare workers and voluntary assistants are called to be the living image of Christ and of his Church in loving the sick and the suffering: witnesses to the Gospel of Life."

This is not the only Church teaching on this issue, and recently the importance of Catholics working in healthcare and social care has been reaffirmed by Pope Benedict XVI in his first Encyclical Letter, Deus Caritas Est (God is Love)

"Following the example given in the parable of the Good Samaritan, Christian charity is first of all the simple response to immediate needs and specific situations: feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for and healing the sick, visiting those in prison, etc.... Individuals who care for those in need must first be professionally competent: they should be properly trained in what to do and how to do it, and committed to continuing care. Yet, while professional competence is a primary, fundamental requirement, it is not of itself sufficient. We are dealing with human beings, and human beings always need something more than technically proper care. They need humanity. They need heartfelt concern."

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View the Meeting the Pastoral needs of Catholic Patients PDF > 
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