VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis used a meeting with
thousands of Italian nurses to pay tribute to a nurse he believes saved his
life by arguing with his doctors that he needed more aggressive antibiotics to
treat a lung infection.
"When, at the age of 20, I was on the verge of death,
she was the one who told the doctors, even arguing with them, 'No, this isn't
working. You must give more,'" the pope said March 3 during a meeting with
members of Italy's national association
of nursing professionals.
With the removal of part of the infected lung and the
antibiotics, "I survived," Pope Francis said. "I thank her and I
want you to know her name: Sister Cornelia Caraglio." The Dominican nun
from Italy was "a great woman, and courageous to the point of arguing with
the doctors," he said.
Like Sister Caraglio, the pope told the Italian nurses,
"you are there all day and you see what happens to the patient. Thank you
In hospitals and rehabilitation centers, he said, nurses are
at "the crossroads" of dozens of relationships, involving patients,
their families, doctors and other staff.
Nurses tend to spend much more time with the patients and
family members than any other staff, he said, so they usually have more
information about a host of factors that must be considered when determining
how best to care for the patient as a person.
"The sensitivity you acquire by being in contact with
patients all day," he said, "makes you promoters of the life and
dignity of persons."
Touch is an important factor for demonstrating respect for
the dignity of the person, the pope said.
When Jesus healed the leper, he said, he extended his hand
and touched the man.
"We must recognize the importance of this simple
gesture," Pope Francis said. "Mosaic law forbid touching lepers and
banned them from approaching inhabited places. But Jesus went to the heart of
the law, which is summarized in love for one's neighbor."
Jesus drew near to the leper, he said, and showed that God
was close to him, too.
Never forget the "medicine of caresses," Pope
Francis told the nurses. "A caress, a smile, is full of meaning for one
who is sick. It is a simple gesture, but encouraging, he or she feels
accompanied, feels closer to being healed, feels like a person, not a