National Ecumenical Conference on "Palliative Care in the Parishes"

A national ecumenical conference on 12 September brought those responsible for palliative care in the Reformed and Catholic Churches together in Zurich. Its message underscored that the churches must fulfill their fundamental mission of accompanying people at the end of their lives in the area of outpatient palliative care as well.
Photo: Mik Gruber° scenographer and exhibition designer

People are growing older and living longer with very diverse restrictions at home. Because of this, a caring community is needed which is well versed in the fundamentals of informal volunteer work and socio-political security.

“Pastoral care for the sick and dying by church pastoral workers is no longer a matter of course. New answers and new ways of answering are needed –  even where the role of the churches was formerly undisputed,“ noted Esther Gaillard, Vice President of the Council of the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches in her welcoming address.

 The churches must fulfill their fundamental mission of accompanying people at the end of their lives - in the field of outpatient palliative care as well. Pastoral care in hospitals and care homes is networked in an interdisciplinary way in many areas. In the parish, cooperation with palliative care networks in outpatient palliative care is not yet a matter of course. Pastoral workers at the parish level must now be involved in this.

 In order to strengthen the network and interaction between those in charge, the Specialized Group on Palliative Care of the Swiss Diaconal Conference organized a national ecumenical conference. “Caring Communities: Palliative Care in the Parishes” was the title of the event, which was jointly held with the Swiss Bishops’ Conference. More than 80 strategically or operationally responsible specialists gathered in Zurich.

In his speech Simon Peng-Keller, Professor of Spiritual Care at the University of Zurich, noted: “In the modern hospice movement, which was significantly inspired by Christian sources, a new approach to care has been developed which overcomes the division between care for the body and care for the soul, and which rediscovers the importance of caring communities”. Shaping the conditions for dying in such a way that people can feel part of a larger community is a political, civic and ecclesiastical task.

“Caring communities that accompany the dying heighten the perception that the church is active outside, beyond the church walls and rectories,” confirmed Christoph Sigrist, Lecturer in Diaconia at the University of Bern and pastor of the Grossmünster in Zurich.

 A variety of workshops illustrated successful projects, long-term trends and common strategies. The conference aims to provide impetus for presenting the concept of palliative care in church communities and parishes, and to make known the offerings from parishes to the entire palliative care network. The church communities should understand palliative care projects as an “extended part of their diaconal and pastoral commitment,” noted Pascal Mösli, who as the Commissioner for Spiritual Care of the Reformed Churches of Bern-Jura-Solothurn co-organized the conference.