Vatican City (AsiaNews) Today at noon John Paul II stood facing from his Vatican apartment window to recite the Angelus along with faithful and pilgrims gathered below in St. Peter's Square.
Prior to the Angelus the pope remembered all those that are sick, entrusting them to Mary. The pontiff reminded faithful that on the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes, Feb. 11, the World Day of the Sick will be celebrated.
During the next few days a series of meetings and events will take place in Lourdes, where Mary appeared to Bernadette Soubirous and where healings and miracles have occurred for over a century.
The pope said, "It is well known that there is strong relationship between Our Lady of Lourdes and the world's suffering and sick. At the sanctuary, built at the site of the Massabielle Grotto, the sick have always taken center stage. Over the years Lourdes has become a genuine place inspiring life and hope in people. How could it become otherwise? The Immaculate Conception of Mary, in fact, was the first fruit of Christ's redemption and pledge of victory over evil. The spring of water flowing forth from the earth, from which the Virgin Mary invited Bernadette to drink, reminds us of the power of Christ's Spirit, completely restoring eternal life to all mankind."
After the Angelus the pope took a special moment to greet steel mill workers from the central Italian town of Terni. Several dozen of them were gathered below in the square, wearing read and blue hard hats. One of the them was wearing the white-colored helmet the Pope himself put on in 1981 when visiting the town's steel plant.Terni's steel mill risks being closed and much its staff laid off. When greeting the workers, the pope said: "I send my greetings to all of Terni's steel mill workers who have made a pilgrimage here on foot to draw attention to the employment crisis at the town's large industrial plant. I will never forget that is was there, on March 18 1981, that I made my first pastoral visit to an Italian factory. Dear workers, as I said back then, I appreciate your steadfast will to 'defend your work and dignity'. Know that I am here to support you in these difficult times and hope that an equitable solution will be found for you and your families."