Vatican City (AsiaNews) – In the culture of today "the need for a careful and extensive presence of the Church to the sick, as well as a presence in society able to transmit effectively the Gospel values to protect human life at all stages, from conception until its natural end” is stronger than ever. With these words, Benedict XVI explains the importance of a Christian presence alongside those who suffer, a presence which, in the Year for Priests, invites priests to be especially close to the sick.
In his message for the XVIII World Day of the Sick, which will be celebrated on February 11, 2010, feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, released today, the Pope recalls that the date coincides with the 25th anniversary of the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Healthcare. "I sincerely hope – he writes - that this occurrence may be an opportunity for a more generous apostolic zeal to serve the sick and those caring for them. With the annual World Day of the Sick, the Church - he adds – intends to raise awareness among the ecclesial community about the importance of pastoral service in the wide world of health service that is part and parcel of its mission, since it represents the continuation of the salvific mission of Christ. "
"Following his example, all Christians are called to relive, in different and ever-changing situations the parable of the Good Samaritan, who, passing a man left half dead by robbers by the roadside," saw him and had compassion. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him' "(Lk 10, 33-35). "At the end of the parable, Jesus says, 'Go and do likewise' (Luke 10:37). These words are also addressed to us. He urges us to stoop to the wounds of body and spirit of our brothers and sisters that we encounter on the roads of the world; it helps us to understand that, by the grace of God accepted and lived out in everyday life, the experience of illness and suffering can become a school of hope".
Recalling the great efforts that the ecclesial community has always dedicated to the sick, also marked by the establishment of the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers, Benedict XVI addresses priests in the year dedicated to them, calling them "servants of the sick" "sign and instrument of Christ's compassion, which must reach everyone marked by suffering. I invite you, dear priests, to spare no effort to give them care and comfort. Time spent close to those being tested proves fruitful in grace for all the other dimensions of pastoral care. Finally, I turn to you, dear sick people, and I ask you to pray and offer up your sufferings for priests so that they can remain faithful to their vocation and their ministry be fruitful for the spiritual benefit of the whole Church".