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Vatican holds first conference on mental illness

stanowisko Kościoła katolickiego w kwestii pobierania i przeszczepiania narządów

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J-P Mauro - published on 02/04/24

Members of Catholic mental health ministries from around the world gathered to raise awareness and open conversations on mental health issues.
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On January 29, the Vatican held a conference that gathered representatives from Catholic mental health ministries from around the world. The conference, the first such gathering on the topic of mental health ministries at the Vatican, saw testimonials and presentations from the Association of Catholic Mental Health Ministers, Vatican officials, and others to increase awareness and cite the importance of this budding ministry of accompaniment. 

Climate, prayer, and Pope Francis

The first speaker at the conference was the undersecretary at the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, Monsignor Anthony Ekpo. He explained that the dicastery has placed a high priority on mental health. Msgr. Ekpo spoke on human rights abuses that are sometimes directed toward those with mental illness, as well as the connection between mental illness and growing global concerns about the state of the Earth’s climate. 

The monsignor noted the “anxieties” related to the difficulties around solving climate change as aggravators of mental illness, but he suggested help may lie in Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical Laudato Si, where the Pope calls for an “ecology of daily life.”

In this, we are guided to pay attention to the environments of our daily lives, for they “influence the way we think, feel, and act.”

Fr. Frédéric Fornos also spoke on the important works of Pope Francis, highlighting the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network. The network saw the Vatican collaborate with the Association of Catholic Mental Health Ministers, which provides prayers for mental health that are related to the Pope’s monthly intentions. 


While mental health professionals diagnose and attempt to treat mental illness, the mission of Catholic mental health ministries is not treatment, but accompaniment. Bishop John Dolan of the Diocese of Phoenix remarked that the shortage of mental health professionals around the world has made such ministries more important than ever. 

To address this need, Bishop Dolan has begun training priests to identify mental illness, which will also allow the priests to better understand and help connect them with mental health professionals. He has also begun an initiative to provide affordable housing for mental health professionals, who generally do not make a lot of money. This way, he can attract more experts to his diocese to tend to his flock. 

Bryana Russell, of Sanctuary Mental Health Ministries, also spoke on the invaluable help that accompaniment can bring to those suffering from mental illness. Some of her comments can be heard in the video below, in which she talks about the experiences of a woman who had been visited by Catholic mental health ministers while she was in a psychiatric ward.

During her stay, the woman received visits from at least two people a day who were associated with the ministry, members of her parish who had completed Sanctuary Health Ministry’s “Sanctuary Course,” which is designed to raise awareness and open conversations about mental health in parishes. 

According to Russel, these visits from Catholic mental health ministers helped her to not feel as though she were alone in her journey to mental health. Russell said, “she was able to feel God’s presence, even in that moment of suffering and pain.”

Read more testimonials and topics of conversation at the Vatican’s first conference on mental health at Vatican News

Mental HealthMinistriesVatican
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