World Day of the Sick

 Pope John Paul focussed the catechesis of yesterdayday's general audience on the liturgical memory of Our Lady of Lourdes and on the celebration of the 12th World Day of the Sick. He noted that the shrine at Lourdes "continues to attract crowds of pilgrims from every part of the world, including many people who are sick" and, over the years, "an intense relationship has developed which binds it to the world of illness and those who work in health care services." He added that the principal celebration of the World Day of the Sick is taking place this year in Lourdes because "in 2004 we will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception which took place on December 8, 1854. Four years later in Lourdes, in 1858 the Virgin Mary, appearing to Bernadette Soubirous in the grotto of Massabielle, called herself 'the Immaculate Conception'." "The World Day of the Sick," remarked the Holy Father, "is a strong call to rediscover the important presence in the Christian community of those who suffer and to evaluate ever more their precious contribution. Pain and sickness can seem absurd if we look at them in strictly human terms: when, however, we allow ourselves to be illuminated by the light of the Gospel, we can see the deeply salvific meaning." Turning to those who "suffer in body and spirit," the Pope expressed his "affection and spiritual closeness. At the same time I would like to remind everyone that human life is always a gift of God, even when it is marked by physical pain of every kind; a 'gift' to be used for the Church and the world. Certainly anyone who suffers must not be left alone. In this regard I wish to express a word of heartfelt appreciation for all those who, with simplicity and spirit of service, are close to those who are sick, seeking to alleviate their suffering and, as much as possible, to free them from infirmities thanks to progress in the world of medicine. Source: VIS

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