VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Catholic doctors have a mission to show God’s compassionate love to those who are suffering and to defend life at all stages, Pope Francis said.

Medical professionals always must “remember that healing means respecting the gift of life from the beginning to the end,” the pope said June 22 during a meeting with members of the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations.

“We are not the owners: Life is entrusted to us and doctors are its servants,” he said. “Your mission is at the same time a witness of humanity, a privileged way of making people see, of making them feel that God our father takes care of every single person, without distinction.”

Noting that the first Christian communities presented Jesus as a physician, the pope said that Christ’s primary mission was to be close to the sick and the suffering, especially those “who were despised and marginalized” because of their conditions.

“In this way, Jesus breaks the judgment of condemnation that often labeled the sick person as a sinner,” he explained. “With this compassionate closeness, he manifests God the father’s infinite love for his most needy children.”

Christ would also share “a personal relationship that was rich, not mechanical, not at a distance” with those oppressed by both physical and spiritual illness, the pope added.