02/11/2004, 00.00
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Pope: Care for those suffering together with Mary

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Today, on the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, the Catholic Church celebrates the World Day of the Sick. John Paul II devoted his Wednesday morning catechesis to the topic of suffering and faith. This afternoon at St. Peter's Basilica, a special mass held with the pope and hundreds of sick people participating.


Below is the entire text of the pope's catechesis: (Translation by AsiaNews):


 "Today our thoughts go out to the famous Marian Shrine of Lourdes in the Pyrenees, which continues to attract throngs of pilgrims from all over the world, among whom many are sick. Here the main events of the World Day of the Sick will take place, a reoccurrence which, by way of well-established tradition, coincides with the feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Lourdes.        

This shrine was chosen not only for its intense relationship with the world' sick population and pastoral healthcare workers. Lourdes was chosen above all since 2004 marks the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of the Church's dogma on the immaculate conception on Dec. 8 1854. Four years later in Lourdes, in 1858, the Virgin Mary, while appearing to Bernardette Soubirous in the Massabielle Grotto, presented herself as the "Immaculate Conception".  

At the foot of the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes, the Immaculate Conception, we now make a spiritual pilgrimage to unite in prayer together with clergy and faithful, and especially the sick, gathering today in Lourdes. The World Day of the Sick constitutes our strong calling to rediscover the important presence of those members of the Christian community who suffer and to value ever more their precious contributions.

To the simple human mindset, pain and sickness can appear to be absurd realities. When, however, we allow ourselves to be enlightened by the Gospel, we are able to capture their profound meaning in terms of our salvation.   

 "It is through the paradox of the Cross –as I stressed in my Word Day of the Sick message – that we gain answers to or most disturbing questions. Christ suffers for us, that is, he takes up all people's suffering and redeems them. Christ suffers with us, granting us the possibility to share our suffering with him. United to Christ's suffering, human suffering becomes a means of salvation." (n. 4)  

I now turn to all those who feel the weight of suffering in their body and spirit. I renew my show of affection and my spiritual nearness to all those in pain. At the same time, I would like to remind everyone that human life is always a gift from God, even when marked by all forms of physical suffering. It is a gift to be valued, by the Church and the whole world.

Certainly, those who suffer must never be abandoned. For this purpose I warmly send my words of appreciation to all people –in their simplicity and spirit of service – who stand close by the side of the sick, attempting to relieve their suffering and, as much as possible, free them from their infirmities through advanced means of medicine. Health care workers, scientist, medical research specialists, doctors and nurses are especially in my thoughts, just as are hospital chaplains and volunteers. To take care of those in pain is a great act of love!     

"Sub tuum praesidium…", we prayed at the start of our meeting: "We seek refuge under your protection", Virgin Immaculate Mother Mary of Lourdes. It is you who revealed yourself as a perfect model of creation according to God's original plan.  It is to you that we entrust the care of sick, elderly and lonely people: soothe their pains and dry their tears. Obtain for each one of them the necessary strength to carry out God's will.  

Support all of us who spend each day alleviating the pain of our brothers and sisters. Help all of us to know Christ better, who in dying and resurrecting, defeated to the power of evil and death.

Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us!"

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