Pope Blesses Pilgrimage of Handicapped to Holy Land

Observes World Day of the Sick

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 11, 2002 (Zenit.org).- On World Day of the Sick, John Paul II blessed a pilgrimage of handicapped people going to the Holy Land under the banner of peace.

At the end of the Mass for the Sick, celebrated this afternoon by the Pope´s vicar for Rome, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, in St. Peter´s Basilica, the Holy Father met and briefly addressed several thousand pilgrims, some in wheelchairs.

Before bidding the pilgrims farewell, John Paul II congratulated the Roman Work of Pilgrimages and the Italian National Union of Transport of the Sick to Lourdes and International Shrines «for having promoted a significant pilgrimage of the ´handicapped´ and ´builders of peace´ to the Holy Land.»

The Pope said the places where Jesus lived «today are disturbed by too much violence and bathed, unfortunately, by much blood.»

«It represents an eloquent gesture of solidarity among handicapped people and, at the same time, is a message of hope for all,» he added. «I sincerely hope that this beautiful initiative will serve so that in that land, marked at present by hatred and war, solidarity and peace will finally prevail.»

The main celebrations of World Day of the Sick took place in the «Lourdes of the East,» the Shrine of Our Lady of Health in Vailankanni, India.

Archbishop Javier Lozano Barragán, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, presided over those celebrations on behalf of the Pope.

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