Caring for the Sick

Author Melinda Penner Published on 03/20/2014

Christians have been at the forefront of building hospitals and providing care for the sick for centuries.

...It wasn’t until Constantine granted the first Edict of Toleration in AD 311, that Christians were able to give public expression to their ethical convictions and undertake social reform. From the fourth-century to present times, Christians have been especially prominent in the planning, siting and building of hospitals, as well as fundraising for them. Cities with significant Christian populations had already begun to change prevailing attitudes, and were already beginning to build hospices (guest houses for the sick and chronically disabled).

Stories of Christian caring had enormous impact, even before Constantine’s decree of toleration. Clement, a Christian leader in Rome at the end of the first century of the Christian era, records how the Christian community was already doing much to relieve the plight of poor widows. In the second century when plague hit the City of Carthage, pagan households threw sufferers onto the streets. The entire Christian community, personally led by their bishop, responded. They were seen on the streets, offering comfort and taking them into their own homes to be cared for. A few decades after Constantine, Julian, who came to power in AD 355, was the last Roman Emperor to try to re-institute paganism. In his Apology, Julian said that if the old religion wanted to succeed, it would need to care for people even better than the way Christians cared...

In AD 369, St Basil of Caesarea founded a 300 bed hospital. This was the first large-scale hospital for the seriously ill and disabled. It cared for victims of the plague. There were hospices for the poor and aged isolation units, wards for travelers who were sick and a leprosy house. It was the first of many built by the Christian Church.

There’s a lot more about this history to read here.