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Pope says governments, churches should support Catholic hospitals

Catholic hospitals offer a public service that should be recognised and supported by local governments, Pope John Paul II has said.

"I deeply hope there will never lack just recognition on the part of civil authorities" for the work undertaken by religious orders and institutions that run hospitals and provide physicians and nurses to care for patients, the pope said on Saturday.

The Holy Fataher was speaking to participants in a meeting sponsored by the Italian bishops' office for pastoral work in health care.

He continued: "It is a service which demands a strong and convinced investment in the specific formation of health care workers," But even more than government recognition, he said, Catholic health care initiatives must have "the support of the entire church community."