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Cirion Foundation

the impact of infectious diseases

Prof. Dr. Antoine Bodar

Where there is solace there is love
“A personal interpretation of our collective responsibility”

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According to Dr. Antoine Bodar, it goes without saying that we must do all we can to avoid suffering in the world. And of course medicine should be developed to the extent that we can all grow to a healthy old age. But life is finite; he points out, death can change life but death is also part of life and life itself does not necessarily end with death. “Personally, I don’t see death as a door being slammed shut; I see it as the opening of another door. If a dying person asks me whether there is such a thing as eternal life, I reply: ‘Yes, we believe in eternal life and that angels will guide us to heaven, where God awaits us.’ But I deliberately use the word believe rather than know, because we cannot be certain. This is why I disapprove when people say a departed loved one is ‘in heaven’. This is something we should leave to our Lord God; belief is not a science. Belief offers solace, belief offers hope. Belief, solace and hope are the things I have to offer as a priest, but counting on going to heaven should not be regarded as an insurance policy for eternal life. Doing nothing and waiting for the promise of the hereafter should not be the driving force of life. Everyone must assume responsibility for developing his or her own talents and then applying them to the betterment of others.”

When Antoine Bodar reverts to the plural and says “we” believe, he speaks on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church. His life as a priest is literally played out in the context of the Mother Church, because he spends most of the year living in priests’ accommodation in Rome. Bodar: “It doesn’t matter who you are, what you own or where you live, God’s kingdom is everywhere that the struggling Church here on Earth and the triumphant Church in heaven are reconciled. It’s where this relationship falters that destructive powers gain the upper hand. Destructive powers are always active, everywhere, be they in the form of physical illness or moral decline. This is why we offer solace to one another. The secret of solace is not so much that it can be offered as in the fact that it can be accepted. Where there is solace there is love; love bears solace like a mother bears a child. Love it not something that can be summoned at the drop of a hat, but when we really need it real love will never let us down. The same can be said of solace or comfort. Trust leads to solace, in the same way that solace, or comfort, nurtures trust. Comforting one another allows us to get closer together.”  

St. Augustine
It’s of little consequence whether the motivation to help others stems from religious conviction, from a social awareness or a feeling of personal responsibility, explains Bodar. What matters the most is that aid is actually offered, particularly if our fellow human beings are sick, requiring refuge or in need of help for other reasons. “And let’s not forget the joy it brings to help people. God manifests himself through the eyes of others and this manifestation is the strongest through the eyes of those who are the neediest. In this context, being a priest has a lot in common with the world of medicine. A doctor tries to cure sick people, even at the risk of his own safety when necessary. He wants to help his fellow man. I too want to help people, which is why I became a priest. Following the example set by St. Augustine, I strive to pass on to others what I have been able to learn myself. What I like about Cirion is that they appreciate the interaction between society and science and they acknowledge the important role played by education. We can learn so much from each other, especially in an environment like this one in which we have the opportunity to provide a personal interpretation of our collective responsibility.”