The Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Health Care Workers was set up on 11 February 1985 by Pope John Paul II who reformed the Pontifical Commission for the Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers into its new form in 1988. It was part of the Roman Curia.
Effective 1 January 2017, the work of the Council was assumed by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.
Its tasks also include coordinating the activities of different dicasteries of the Roman Curia as they relate to health care. The Pontifical Council explains and defends the teachings of the Church on health issues. The Council also follows and studies programs and initiatives of health care policy at both international and national levels, with the goal of extracting its relevance and implications for the pastoral care of the Church.
The office of President was left vacant following the death of Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski in July 2016. Monsignor Jean-Marie Musivi Mupendawatu was the last Secretary of the council. The council was suppressed effective 1 January 2017 with the creation of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development with Cardinal Turkson as the inaugural prefect.
In November 1989 at the annual conference of the Pontifical Council at the Vatican, recognition was given to an American priest from Massachusetts, Rev James Martin Graham, who was the director of the Archdiocese of Hartford's Office of AIDS Ministry, who pleaded for better communication efforts between the Church and governmental health agencies to share information to better combat AIDS. As a result of his proposal, Graham was appointed by then Archbishop Fiorenzo Angelini as the director of the new International Christian AIDS Network (ICAN). As a follow up to this appointment, Archbishop Angelini traveled to the United States in June 1990 and visited Graham's Sts. Martin & James Respite, a hospice and living facility for HIV-positive and AIDS patients in Waterbury, Connecticut, where a 24-hour care residence was named for him. Archbishop Angelini met with several of the patients and gave Father Graham a silver stalk of wheat that would serve as the handle on the door of the Respite's Chapel tabernacle. In an interview with American television, the Archbishop remarked that Graham's Respite was recognized by the Pontifical Council as a model facility that should be followed to make treatment and spiritual care of HIV-positive and AIDS patients available for all. The work of ICAN was short-lived, however, for Father Graham died in 1997.
Monsignor Mupendawatu said, in an interview on Thursday, July 21, 2011 with the semi-official Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, that a papal foundation affiliated with the Pontifical Council, that is dedicated largely to AIDS patients, may expand its services to include a global program of distributing anti-AIDS drugs.
The initiative would respond to a shortage of antiretroviral drugs and other drugs in poorer countries, where the vast majority of AIDS patients receive no adequate treatment.
Mupendawatu is a delegate to the Good Samaritan Foundation, established by Pope John Paul II in 2004, to provide economic support to the sick who are most in need, particularly those suffering from AIDS.
Mupendawatu said the Foundation planned to strengthen its activity, particularly in Africa, by increasing its promotion of donations of pharmaceutical and medical material, and by working more closely with local Catholic leaders to place the Church in the forefront of the care for AIDS patients.
To favor these efforts, he said, the foundation may open offices on every continent, which would function in coordination with the central office at the Vatican in Rome.
"The foundation is also studying the possibility of creating its own 'pharmaceutical center' which would allow the collection and distribution of medicines in poor countries," he said. The center would work in cooperation with other church agencies.
Mupendawatu said that while more than 25 percent of the global health care to AIDS patients is provided by Catholic institutions, the church needs to do even more in the face of the epidemic, which infects about 7,000 additional people each day.
One of the church's priorities is to help make "universal and free access to treatment" a reality for all those infected with AIDS, he said. Today, only about 5 percent of people with AIDS patients receive adequate care, he said.
"It is enough to realize that the majority of AIDS patients in Africa live on a dollar a day and cannot afford any treatment. Therefore, it is necessary to reach the essential goal of no-cost drugs," he said.
Mupendawatu said the church's insistence that education in responsible sexuality be at least a part of any anti-AIDS strategy has found appreciation in scientific circles, in fact, contrary to what the public has been led to believe. The church's position is that effective prevention of AIDS must include the abandonment of high-risk behavior and the adoption of a "balanced sexuality" based on permanent monogamy- the inclusion of total premarital chastity and lasting full marital fidelity, he said.
He noted that Pope Benedict XVI's monthly prayer intention for July evoked the church's commitment to AIDS sufferers: "That Christians may ease the physical and spiritual sufferings of those who are sick with AIDS, especially in the poorest countries."