By Melissa Butz
Pope Francis met with 600 doctors from New York on September 20. The medical professionals work with an organization named “SOMOS Community Care” which serves patients who lack access to basic resources.
Mario Paredes, the Chief Executive Officer of SOMOS, introduced Pope Francis to the group’s leader.
“For me, it is an honor to present to you, the founder, the creator of this movement that was generated in the city of New York to renovate the health system in our city, Dr. Ramón Tallaj,” he told the Holy Father.
“We execute our vision and mission by rescuing the traditional role of the primary physician, family doctor, or ‘general physician,’ the neighborhood doctor,” Ramón told Pope Francis. “The recipients of our service are the immigrants, the poorest and most vulnerable people in New York, who have come from the most diverse corners of the globe.”
The pontiff thanked them for their personal commitment to patients, both in disease prevention and in treatment.
“This solidarity with the sick is a real treasure, and it is a distinctive sign of authentic health care and assistance, which puts the person and his needs at the center,” he told the group. “Today, healthcare is recognized as a universal human right and as an essential dimension of integral human development. Even so, in the world, it is still a right guaranteed to few and forbidden to many.”
As a gift for the visit, they gave Pope Francis a stethoscope.
Among the meeting’s attendees were actor Benicio del Toro and Argentine pianist Raúl di Blasio.
“It’s an incredible experience. Pope is hope. Pope is hope,” Benicio said. “I’m here with SOMOS. Coming here with a bunch of doctors, people that really work hard to help the needy in New York. So I’m here with them.”
“I didn’t have the opportunity to speak to the pope. It was important just being close,” said Raúl. “I would have loved to have been able to offer to give a concert to youth through that wonderful cause he has. There will be another chance. It was a truly wonderful experience.”
“He showed how he identifies with the needy, what he calls the ‘throwaway culture,’” Ramón explained. “He mentioned them three times in his speech. When you are with a person like him, it touches everyone’s heart, because he helps you see the drama of human poverty.”
Pope Francis was at ease with the doctors. In addition to greeting those responsible for the initiative, he stopped for a while to personally greet the doctors and their families.