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"THE LORD HIMSELF TAUGHT ME TO HAVE COMPASSION” A Pastoral Instruction on the AIDS Crisis by The Most Reverend Matthew H. Clark Bishop of Rochester, New York February 29, 1988 CONTENTS Section Title INTRODUCTION OUR TRADITION OUR CALL GOD'S LOVE SIN, DISEASE, COMMUNITY RECONCILIATION AND RELATIONSHIPS ACALLTO ACTION : AREAS OF ACTION Each Parish, Cluster, Religion Ministry to Persons with Special Needs General Pastoral Directives Concern For Human Rights Particular Policy of the Church of Rochester Special Request of the Division of Social Ministry AFINAL WORD OF HOPE END NOTES Page My Sisters and Brothers, INTRODUCTION ‘The disease AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome)! is a public health problem that involves many moral issues. The AIDS epidemic will likely touch each of us personally in the not too distant future. We who claim to be followers of the Great Physician, Jesus, must be certain that all of our acts, words and moral decisions are consistent with the compassion, justice and love so vividly modeled for us by Christ”, (Mk. 1:40-42; Col. 1:24; 5:24-15) OUR TRADITION The Church has a strong, vibrant tradition of thousands of men and women generously risking their lives caring unconditionally for the needs of the sick. Among the most outstanding examples of Christian love and healing is the care of St. Francis of Assisi for the lepers. The society of the early 12th Century con- sidered lepers cursed by God and expelled them from the community. St. Francis was repulsed and frightened by lepers. Yet, within himself he questioned the reason for their affliction and the resporise of Church and society to those so needy: "What made these people so different?" "Were they not sons and daughters of the Most High and Glorious Creator?” "Did not our Brother Jesus heal lepers?" It was this graced questioning of societal and ecclesial norms, as well as the determination to overcome his fear that led first to his physical ‘embrace of the leper on the road to Perugia, and gradually to his conversion of heart and mind, St, Francis wrote: While I was in sin, it was a very bitter thing for me to look upon a leper. The Lord Himself then led me among them and taught me to have compassion for them, so that what seemed bittey to me was transformed into sweetness of body and soul.