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ROME -- Rain and thunder did not stop Pope Francis from blessing cardiology research and medical care in a speech given at the European Society of Cardiology (ESC)'s annual meeting.
"You look after the heart. How much symbolism is enshrined in this world! How many hopes are contained in this human organ! In your hands you hold the beating core of the human body, and as such your responsibility is very great!" said the 266th Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church.
He stated his support for science and research, emphasizing that asking questions is crucial to understanding reality and the origin of man.
"The sciences alone, however, whether natural or physical, are not sufficient to understand the mystery contained within each person. When man is viewed in his totality -- allow me to emphasize this point -- we are able to have a profound understanding of the poorest, those most in need, and the marginalized," he continued.
Following his speech, Pope Francis received a gift from Fausto J. Pinto, MD, PhD, current president of the ESC: his very own red stethoscope.
"I am very impressed that the pope would speak to such a large group of healers. To my knowledge, no other religious leaders have ever addressed a cardiology meeting like this. For those following him, this is a very strong message," commented E. Magnus Ohman, MBBS, of Duke University School of Medicine, in an email. "Quite unique."
A surprise addition to the ESC Congress program, the pope's visit on the last day required attendees to arrive early before entrances to the Fiera di Roma were closed for security. It was clear that most of the conference's 35,000 attendees did not see the pope, however.
The mood was tense from a cold and rainy morning, with many attendees jostling to be as close to the pope as possible. Chairs were abandoned as people rushed to the waist-high safety barriers -- which, apparently, were the only things physically separating attendees from the pope when he arrived by golf cart at the outdoor stage.