On behalf of the European Network of Health Care Chaplaincy, allow me to convey my best wishes upon the embarkation of your conference whose theme will be: “Spirituality and Health Care - the Integration of Professional Chaplaincy in Heath Care”.
It is truly significant that your Association has taken the initiative to organize this conference and deal with this important theme. It captures the concerns all of us in Europe as to the direction which chaplaincy is taking and the difficulties it faces. It appears that all of us are beginning to realize that, if we do not provide a true spiritual content as caregivers, we will not be able to provide that which is necessary to heal the wounds of those who suffer.
Your theme brings up the basic question of our pastoral identity and how this identity can be integrated within a healthcare system. The difficulties, though, are two fold. On the one hand, we must delve within ourselves as to discover our calling as spiritual care providers. This is often a painful struggle in that we are challenged as to our personal faith and commitment. On the other hand, we are faced with the difficulty of being placed in health care settings and systems that question faith and the spiritual aspects of the patient. Therefore, we are continually in the process of a personal integration of faith and a witness of this faith. We here must be careful as to not fall into the tendency to conform to secular “medical models” at the cost of losing our basic identity as those who proclaim God’s love and grace. At the same time, we must find ways in relating the spiritual entity of illness to all those who have been delegated as health care providers.
Your conference also is significant in that the Peace Lutheran Church of Plymouth, Minnesota, USA, in sponsoring it. The European Network of Health Care Chaplaincy has taken much effort in establishing relations with other chaplaincy organizations throughout the world. I firmly believe that we can all learn from one another is a vital and valuable way so as to grow personally “in the Lord” and in our capacity as spiritual care givers.
Latvia has shown all of us in Europe that enthusiasm and commitment in what we do is an essential part of forming a well-structured and efficient chaplaincy. Your Association has given us all the hope that we can continue in our own countries and health care setting with the support and encouragement that your momentum radiates. Because of your enthusiasm and commitment, your Conference will surely be a success.
Rev. Dr. Stavros Kofinas
Coordinator of the European Network of Healthcare Chaplaincy
(Representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate)