Years of experience don’t ease the journey toward a family waiting in an ICU. We pastors feel terribly inadequate, and at the same time incredibly grateful that the vocation allows us into the most intimate situations.
Since most people today die of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, stroke or dementia, and many live with these diseases for years, this handbook will be enormously helpful for pastors, patients and families. The book gives compassionate and sensible guidance to those seeking to negotiate the difficult spiritual and medical terrain that surrounds the experience of dying.
Recently I cohosted with actor John Mahoney (of the TV show Frasier) an annual event called "Jubilate." It supports Chicago's Bonaventure House, where the Alexian Brothers serve AIDS victims, who also serve each other. Each year such opera singers as Catherine Malfitano, Samuel Ramey and the friend who got me into all this, Susanne Mentzer, donate their services.
The Alexian Brothers established Bonaventure House some years ago as a place of refuge, spiritual care and healing of many sorts for people afflicted with AIDS. Almost 40 people suffering from the disease are under its roof, and many more have been taught how to care for themselves in independent living.
When Sister Raphaela Händler arrived in Namibia in 1996 to coordinate the country’s Roman Catholic hospitals and health-care clinics, she realized that AIDS was a “time bomb” about to burst. She had worked previously in Tanzania, and had seen the AIDS pandemic spread there. Although Namibia was years behind Tanzania in the spread of this disease, the pattern was similar.
About 2,000 Canadian members of a breakaway Anglican group and a small group of U.S. Anglican dissidents said in March that they have accepted the offer made by Pope Benedict XVI last October that permits disaffected congregations to defect to Rome while keeping many Anglican traditions, including married priests.
In March, when Pope Benedict XVI, on a flight to Cameroon, declared that the use of condoms is not the answer to the AIDS epidemic in Africa—that, on the contrary, it “increases the problem”—I thought immediately of Francis Ntowe. I met Ntowe years ago when he came to the U.S. from Cameroon. He became an elder in the Presbyterian Church.
During a weeklong visit to Africa in March, Pope Benedict XVI told journalists accompanying him on the papal plane to Cameroon that making condoms widely available “increased the problem” of AIDS. The remark, similar to the Vatican’s longstanding emphasis on sexual abstinence, revived controversy over how best to stem the global AIDS epidemic that has devastated sub-Saharan Africa.