02/07/2009, 00.00
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Pope: Witnessing to charity through presence to suffering children and their families

In his message for the World Day of the Sick, celebrated on February 11, Benedict XVI writes that the Church "vigorously upholds the absolute and supreme dignity of every human life," which "is beautiful and must be lived in its fullness even when it is weak and wrapped in the mystery of suffering." The words and example of John Paul II.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Being present to children who suffer not only because of illness, but also because of war, violence, and exploitation, and comforting their families as well, expresses the love of God and therefore is a commitment that Christians must feel deeply. The message of Benedict XVI for the 17th World Day of the Sick (celebrated on February 11), made public today, is dedicated to children who suffer.

The Church "vigorously upholds the absolute and supreme dignity of every human life," which "is beautiful and must be lived in its fullness even when it is weak and wrapped in the mystery of suffering," and emphasizes, according to the pope's message, the special attention that, following the example of Jesus, must be dedicated to the "little ones who bear in their bodies the consequences of crippling illnesses, and others who struggle with evils that still today are incurable, in spite of the progress of medicine and the assistance of qualified researchers and health professionals. There are children who are wounded in their bodies and souls following conflicts and wars, and others who are the innocent victims of the hatred of uncaring adults. There are 'street' children, deprived of the warmth of a family and left to themselves, and minors who are defiled by indecent people who violate their innocence, causing a psychological wound in them that will mark them for the rest of their lives. We also cannot forget," Benedict XVI continues, "the incalculable number of minors who die because of thirst, hunger, the lack of health care, and also the little exiles and refugees driven from their own land together with their parents, in search of better living conditions. From all of these children," the pope states, "there goes up a silent cry of pain that calls upon our consciences as men and believers."

This is a witness of charity that "is part of the very life of every Christian community." "But there's more. Because the sick child belongs to a family that shares his suffering, often with serious inconvenience and difficulty, the Christian communities cannot fail to take it upon themselves also to assist the nuclear families affected by the illness of a son or a daughter. According to the example of the 'Good Samaritan', we must stoop down to people who are so harshly tried, and offer them the support of concrete solidarity. In this way, the acceptance and sharing of suffering is translated into helpful support for the families of sick children, creating within them a climate of serenity and hope, and making them feel around themselves a larger family of brothers and sisters in Christ."

Jesus' compassion for the weeping of the widow of Nain (cf. Luke 7:12-17) and for the heartfelt prayer of Jairus (cf. Luke 8:41-56) constitute, among others, a couple of valuable points of reference. Following the example of Jesus, we must "learn to participate in the moments of physical and mental pain on the part of so many families. All of this presupposes unselfish, generous love, the reflection and sign of the merciful love of God, who never abandons his children to trial, but always provides them with marvelous resources of mind and spirit so that they may be equipped to face the difficulties of life."

"It is to Jesus crucified," the pope further writes, "that we must direct our attention: by dying on the cross, he wished to share in the suffering of all of humanity. In his suffering for love, we glimpse a supreme participation in the pains of sick children and their parents. My venerable predecessor John Paul II, who offered a shining example of the patient acceptance of suffering especially at the end of life, wrote: 'On this Cross is the "Redeemer of man," the Man of Sorrows, who has taken upon himself the physical and moral sufferings of the people of all times, so that in love they may find the salvific meaning of their sorrow and valid answers to all of their questions' (Salvifici Doloris, 31)."

IN THE PHOTO: Benedict XVI at the Bambin Gesù hospital, 9/30/2005

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