Pope Francis described the act of organ donation as ‘a testimony of love for our neighbour’ as he met with the Transplantation Committee for the Council of Europe (CD-P-TO) who gathered in Rome on Thursday.
The Pontiff’s comments came on the same day as the Catholic Church in England and Wales agreed to join the fleshandblood campaign as a national associate.
The fleshandblood campaign is the first national partnership of its kind between the NHS and UK Churches, aiming to encourage church congregations to see blood and organ donation as a part of their giving.
The Most Rev Peter Smith, Archbishop of Southwark, says 'The Catholic Church is clear that, in itself it is a good and meritorious thing freely to donate our organs after we are dead. Even while we are alive, actions such as giving blood can be a powerful expression of human solidarity and of Christian charity. Such actions can help build a culture of life, a culture in which life is cherished. For this reason I welcome initiatives such as fleshandblood which encourages people to think of serving others in this way, as a form of Christian charity.'
Some of the highest rates of organ donation in the world occur in European countries with a strong Catholic heritage and Catholicism is often positively associated with rates of donation. Support and encouragement for the practice of organ donation has been expressed repeatedly by popes and also by national bishops’ conferences in the Catholic Church.
Rome, the spiritual home of Catholicism, plays host to European Organ Donation Day (EODD) on Saturday, with news of The Pope’s comments being welcomed by those involved. Marta Lopez Fraga, the Secretary of the European Committee on Organ Donation responds, 'The Pope is a charismatic figure and it is very important that he has given a clear and strong message in favour of donation to all the different religious communities.'
Following the meeting in Rome, the CD-P-TO reported that it was also the first instance of a Pope expressing a scientific point of view with regard to organ donation and specifically brain death determination. In London, Archbishop Smith drew attention to the publication of a major new report of the ethics of organ donation. The report is the work of an international group of clinicians, philosophers, and theologians, convened by the Anscombe Bioethics Centre, Oxford and published earlier this month. The report aims to ‘set out the ethical requirements which must be met if transplant medicine is to achieve its true end, and merit the support of Catholics and, more generally, of men and women of good will.’
The fleshandblood campaign has already witnessed widespread support across churches, community groups and from government ministers, with over 35,000 church leaders across the country having been resourced. It is sponsored by Give.net in association with denominations and organisations including the Church of England, The Salvation Army, Methodist Church, United Reformed Church, Baptist Union, Church In Wales, Church of Scotland, Church in Ireland, Methodist Church in Ireland, Seventh Day Adventist Church, Hope and Evangelical Alliance.
More than 20 million people across the UK have now made the decision to donate their organs after death by signing up to the NHS Organ Donor Register. Though just signing the register is not enough. People who want to be organ donors after death need to make their organ donation decision known to their loved ones and save them having to make that decision themselves at such a difficult time.
For additional information please contact the NHS Blood and Transplant press office number on 01923 367600 or For urgent, out-of-hours media enquiries – please call 0117 969 2444.
Notes to editors
NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) is a joint England and Wales Special Health Authority. Its remit includes the provision of a reliable, efficient supply of blood and associated services to the NHS in England and North Wales. It is also the organ donor organisation for the UK and is responsible for matching and allocating donated organs.
Kore is a creative agency that builds socially good ideas. They operate a small team committed to collaboration and draw upon the creative energy and expertise of a growing global network. Acting as a broker, architect and translator they also work with charities and organisations helping them to build ideas and develop strategy.
fleshandblood: founded as a partnership between KORE and NHSBT, the campaign seeks to create a network of associates committed to supporting the campaign and providing further distribution in order to engage with a broad spectrum of the church in the UK.
www.fleshandblood.org is a hub of free resources, stories and media: providing information and practical ideas for churches and communities to engage with the campaign.
There are 3 calls to action involved in the campaign accessed via the website: