VATICAN, December 2, 2011 ( – Pope Benedict XVI met with healthcare professionals at the Vatican last Saturday, urging them to recognize their “privileged position” of service to those who are sick, alone, and often suffering not only from “physical wounds” but also “spiritual and moral wounds.”

The pope’s call to recognize the dignity of sick persons began a three day trend where he also spoke about the dignity of human life in relation to the death sentence and a proper ecology.

The Holy Father told healthcare professionals on November 26th that it is Christ on the cross, who “teaches us to protect and promote life, in whatever stage and in whatever condition it is found, recognizing the dignity and value of every single human being, created in the image and likeness of God and called to eternal life.”

The three-day conference for the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry focused on how medical professionals might incorporate the teachings of blessed John Paul II on the sacredness and dignity of every human life into their work

During a general audience on Sunday, the pope expressed his hope that a group of people working to end the death penalty would succeed.

“I express my hope that your deliberations will encourage the political and legislative initiatives being promoted in a growing number of countries to eliminate the death penalty and to continue the substantive progress made in conforming penal law both to the human dignity of prisoners and the effective maintenance of public order,” said the pope to a number of people who participated in a meeting promoted by Sant’Egidio Community called No Justice without Life.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that while in cases of “extreme gravity” the Catholic Church does allow for the death penalty to preserve the “common good of society,” public authorities should “limit” themselves to “bloodless means” if they are “sufficient to defend human lives against an aggressor and to protect public order and the safety of persons.”

The following day, the pope addressed a group of Italian students, members of Sorella Natura (Sister Nature), a foundation connected to the Franciscan community of Assisi, telling them that respect for the human person and respect for nature are intimately connected, and the latter must not forget the former.

“Today more than ever, it becomes clear that respect for the environment cannot forget the recognition of the value of the human person and his inviolability at every stage of life and in every condition,” the pope said to the students.