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Catholic Dictionary




An institution for the care of the sick. The first hospitals were charitable institutions founded and directed by the Church for the aged, poor, and afflicted, and in the Middle Ages they served foundlings, orphans, and lepers as well. The oldest hospital still in existence is the Hôtel Dieu, founded under religious auspices in Paris in A.D. 660. Many religious orders have as their distinctive apostolate the service of the sick in hospitals and most Catholic hospitals are conducted by religious institutes. Hospitals have always been intimately connected with the history of Christian charity in imitation of Christ in his compassion for the sick and disabled.