Vatican City, May 17, 2019 / 12:00 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis Friday encouraged medical professionals to defend and promote life, highlighting the practice of conscientious objection in today’s healthcare environment.

“Defend and promote life, starting from those who are most defenseless or in need of assistance because they are sick, or elderly, or marginalized,” Pope Francis said May 17.

The pope met with the Italian Catholic Association of Healthcare Workers in Vatican’s apostolic palace and encouraged their commitment to pro-life healthcare.

The pope stressed that just because a medical technique is technologically possible does not mean it is necessarily ethical.

“Any medical practice or intervention on the human being must first be evaluated carefully to see if it actually respects life and human dignity,” he said.

“The practice of conscientious objection … can be a sign for the healthcare environment in which we find ourselves, as well as for the patients and their families,” he explained.

Francis said that in extreme cases where human life is endangered, conscientious objection based on one’s ethical convictions should be sought with respect and humility in order to prevent understandings.

“Always seek dialogue, especially with those who have different positions, listening to their point of view and trying to transmit yours,” he advised.

Pope Francis critiqued the “corporatization” of healthcare systems today, commenting that healthcare workers must treat patients as people, not numbers.

“Its corporatization … has fundamentally changed the approach to illness and to the patient himself with its preference for efficiency often preceding attention to the person, who needs to be understood, listened to and accompanied, as much as he needs a correct diagnosis and effective treatment,” Francis said.

He said that this corporatization also has an effect on medical workers leading to “burnout,” with many struggling to cope with long work shifts and a stressful working environment.

To guard against these pressures, Francis emphasized the importance of prayer and prioritizing one’s own spiritual life, commenting that this is what sustained the many dedicated saints who served the sick with love.

“To keep your spirit alive, I urge you to be faithful to prayer and to nourish yourselves with the Word of God: always with the Gospel in your pocket,” the pope advised.

“Healing, among other things, passes not only from the body, but also from the spirit.”