Suffering and End of Life

Horizons of Hope: A Toolkit for Catholic Parishes on Palliative Care

“Palliative care is an approach that improves the quality of life of patients (adults and children) and their families who are facing problems associated with life-threatening illness. It prevents and relieves suffering through the early identification, correct assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, whether physical, psychosocial or spiritual.”

World Health Organization, “Definition of Palliative Care”

“Horizons of Hope: A Toolkit for Catholic Parishes on Palliative Care” seeks to:

  • Empower and educate parishioners by addressing questions surrounding palliative care, dying, death, suffering, accompaniment, and bereavement in a holistic fashion.
  • Present high-quality content that explores how palliative care is understood from a perspective of Catholic moral and pastoral theology, medical expertise and the Compassionate Community model.
  • Facilitate meaningful conversations together so that our parishes and families become Compassionate Communities, grounded in the mercy and tenderness of the living Christ.

Why Promote Palliative Care in our Parishes?

As people of faith in Christ, horizons of hope open before us when we gather around the sick and the dying. Families, friends, parish communities and health care professionals, together, all play an important role to care for and accompany those in need of palliative care that recognizes the dignity of the human person.

When confronted with a life-limiting diagnosis, we can find ourselves in an unfamiliar and even frightening situation. These moments are usually marked by having to make numerous practical decisions surrounding care and support for loved ones and ourselves. More often than not, such decisions require moral discernment through the lens of our Faith. We believe in the dignity and sacredness of human life at all stages, from conception to natural death. At the same time, our faith does not demand that life is to be sustained at all costs.

As Catholics, our faith in Jesus Christ has much to teach us about living and dying well. Horizons of Hope: A Toolkit for Catholic Parishes on Palliative Care is designed to help each of us – caregivers, the sick and dying and family members – to find support and concrete assistance.

Who developed this resource?

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) formed a Joint Ad hoc Committee on Palliative Care with a variety of partners and experts to address the increasing complexities regarding end-of-life issues in Canada. The Committee members included representatives from Pallium Canada, Dominican University College, Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute, Catholic Health Alliance of Canada, Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Joseph in Canada.

For whom is the program designed?

  • Those seeking to learn more about palliative care and Catholic Church teaching on end-of-life;
  • Caregivers;
  • Persons who have recently been diagnosed with a terminal illness;
  • Family members who need resources and guidance as they journey with a loved one who is seriously or terminally ill; and
  • Parishioners and pastoral care teams who want to form a Compassionate Community program.


Facilitator’s Guide


Understanding the experience of dying & death


Discerning and making decisions at the end of life


Accompanying at the end of life


Supporting and integrating inside the wider community


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