Excerpts of an address made yesterday by Pope John Paul II to the Catholic Health Care Association in Phoenix:

. . . The church has always understood herself to be charged by Christ with the care of the poor, the weak, the defenseless, the suffering and those who mourn. This means that, as you alleviate suffering and seek to heal, you also bear witness to the Christian view of suffering and to the meaning of life and death as taught by your Christian faith.

. . . Your ministry therefore must also reflect the mission of the church as the teacher of moral truth, especially in regard to the new frontiers of scientific research and technological achievement.

Many times in recent years the church has addressed issues related to the advances of biomedical technology. She does so not . . . to discourage scientific progress or to judge harshly those who seek to extend the frontiers of human knowledge and skill, but . . . to affirm the moral truths which must guide the application of this knowledge and skill. Ultimately, the purpose of the church's teaching in this field is to defend the innate dignity and fundamental rights of the human person. In this regard the church cannot fail to emphasize the need to safeguard the life and integrity of the human embryo and fetus.

The human person is a unique composite -- a unity of spirit and matter, soul and body, fashioned in the image of God and destined to live forever. Every human life is sacred, because every human person is sacred. It is in the light of this fundamental truth that the church constantly proclaims and defends the dignity of human life from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death. It is also in the light of this fundamental truth that we see the great evil of abortion and euthanasia.

Not long ago, in its "Instruction on Respect for Human Life in Its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation," the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith once more dealt with certain vital questions concerning the human person. Once more it defended the sanctity of innocent human life from the moment of conception onward. Once again it affirmed the sacred and inviolable character of the transmission of human life by the procreative act within marriage. It explained that new technologies may afford new means of procreation, but "what is technically possible is not for that very reason morally admissible." To place new human knowledge at the service of the integral well-being of human persons does not inhibit true scientific progress but liberates it. The church encourages genuine advances in knowledge, but she also insists on the sacredness of human life at every stage and in every condition. The cause she serves is the cause of human life and human dignity.

. . . Today you are faced with new challenges, new needs. One of these is the present crisis of immense proportions which is that of AIDS and AIDS-related complex {ARC}. Besides your professional contribution and your human sensitivities toward all affected by this disease, you are called to show the love and compassion of Christ and his church. As you courageously affirm and implement your moral obligation and social responsibility to help those who suffer, you are, individually and collectively; living out the parable of the Good Samaritan.

. . . In the changing world of health care, it is up to you to ensure that this "kindness and love of God our Savior" remains the heart and soul of Catholic health services.