Minister General’s World AIDS Day message 2015

FRANCISCAN COMMEMORATION OF WORLD AIDS DAY 2015

Rome – December 1, 2015

My dear brothers of the Order, members of the Franciscan movement, and friends of Franciscans,

May the Lord give you peace!

I take this opportunity to speak to you on this the annual World AIDS Day, which is commemorated each year on December 1.  The purpose of this day is to call to mind and prayer all of our brothers and sisters who are living with the virus, and also those who have died in the past year.  We also unite our prayer with all families, health care professionals, religious institutions, Franciscans, and all who offer care and support to those living with HIV or AIDS.  Our prayer also reflects our commitment to do all we can to join efforts to end new infections, to end discrimination in all of its forms, and to create loving environments where people most directly affected might find support, consolation and encouragement.

HIV and AIDS continue to pose a very serious threat to human societies everywhere.  According to the United Nations program on AIDS, there were 36.9 million people globally who are living with HIV in 2014).  More than 1 million people died from AIDS-related illnesses in 2014.  Nearly 2 million people were newly infected in in that same year.  That is the bad news.  The good news is that infection rates are down by more than 1 million since the year 2000, a 35% reduction.  The better news is that 15.8 million people now have access to life-saving antiretroviral therapies, allowing many to return to active, productive lives.  New scientific and medical developments have led to more effective treatments and could, one day, lead to the creation of a vaccine against HIV.  Education related to HIV and AIDS, the promotion of a responsible and ethically-based life-style, and the promotion of spiritual and social support groups and networks are playing an increasingly positive and effective role in reducing infections, reducing stigma, and improving life conditions of those who are living with the virus.  I urge you to call upon your government officials to make additional resources available to sustain efforts to eliminate this illness.

The Catholic Church, the Franciscan Order and family, and other faith-based and civil society groups are on the forefront in the fight against HIV and AIDS, playing a major role in the fight to end this public health threat.  For all of our brothers of the Order who are engaged directly and indirectly in accompanying those living with HIV, their families, and providing spiritual and emotional support to health care workers, I wish to recognize your heroic deeds and encourage you to persevere in this service of mercy, justice and love.

On this World AIDS Day 2015, I urge all of you my brothers to become more aware of the HIV and AIDS pandemic, and to explore ways to provide additional material, spiritual and social support to all who are living with or affected by HIV.  Through our fraternities and ministries, let us promote the merciful face of God who, as Pope Francis reminds us in Misericordiae Vultus, “does not limit himself to affirming his love, but makes it visible and tangible” (#9).  Just as God feels responsible for all of his creatures, so too are we invited to become responsible for one another, demonstrating the love and mercy that we ourselves have received and are called to share.  Let us join with the human community and ‘End AIDS as a Public Health Threat’ (Pope Francis, 5 June 2015, International AIDS Society Conference).

Fraternally yours,

Br. Michael A. Perry, OFM
Minister General and Servant

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