02/11/2010, 00.00
PHILIPPINES
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World Day of the Sick: turning suffering into a school of hope

by Santosh Digal
Today is World Day of the Sick. Filipino nun describes her experience in the University of Santo Tomas Catholic Hospital, Manila, where more than half of the beds are reserved for the poor. The hospital also offers spiritual care for patients and their families.
Manila (AsiaNews) –  “By God’s grace, we can transform the experience of sickness and sufferings into a ‘school of hope’,” said Sr Agustina C. Aguilar, director of Pastoral Care Services at the University of Santo Tomas Catholic Hospital, Manila, on the occasion of the 18th World Day of the Sick. The event is celebrated on 11 February, the liturgical Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes. This year’s theme is the ‘Church in the service of love for the suffering’. It is also the 25th anniversary of the creation of the Pontifical Council for Healthcare Workers.

The Santo Tomas Hospital has 815 beds, 460 reserved for charity patients, which are financially sustained by 355 private patient beds. Whilst providing health services to those who can afford to pay, the hospital does not deprive those who cannot pay of the best quality healthcare possible.

In the hospital, four nuns, four priests and a lay brother also provide around the clock spiritual care to patients and their families. Every day they pray with patients, distribute the Holy Communion and celebrate Mass together. They also organise spiritual education courses to help hospital staff take care of the patients.

“World Day of the Sick is an opportunity to reflect on the value of human suffering and the important role the sick have in spreading the Gospel,” Sr Agustina said.

For the Church, the sick and their families have a special connection to the suffering of Christ and those who perform the mission of the Church.

“Human suffering acquires another meaning when it is seen through the mystery of the passion and death of Christ,” she said.

This morning, in Manila’s Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Card Gaudencio B. Rosales celebrated Mass in commemoration of World Day of the Sick. About 30 priests and 1,000 worshippers took part in the ceremony.

“Those who are sick and suffering are embraced by God. They are close to God. Our suffering and pain should be understood in light of the Christian faith and Christ’s suffering and death on the cross. This way we can participate in the paschal mystery.”

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