World Day of Sick to Re-emphasize the Why of Health Care Ministry

Principal Celebrations to Be Held in Washington

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 19, 2003 ( World Day of the Sick, scheduled for Washington, D.C., will help resharpen the meaning of the care the Church offers to the sick and to health care workers, an organizer says.

In an interview with ZENIT, Archbishop Javier Lozano Barragán, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, said that «in the present-day world there are critical problems in the area of health care ministry.»

The idea has spread that health care ministry is simply something «philanthropic,» and this, «together with other causes, has resulted in the emptying of many religious orders and congregations,» he said. «Something can be accomplished with philanthropy, but vocations are not awakened to the religious life.»

World Day of the Sick, sponsored by the pontifical council, is held every Feb. 11, feast of the Virgin of Lourdes.

The event is held every year in a different continent. «The country that hosts the celebrations is very important, but it is not for that country, but for the whole continent,» Archbishop Lozano Barragán said.

In fact, the program includes the four main languages spoken in the America.

Forty-eight episcopal participants will attend: the president of each episcopal conference in the Americas, along with the person responsible for health care ministry.

The meeting, held within the framework of the 53 programs supported by the pontifical council, seeks a profound renewal of health care ministry, Archbishop Lozano Barragán explained.

Genuine charity is inspired by faith, he said. Thus, health care ministry has to do with «the Lord’s resurrection; it is pastoral care that gives an answer to death. It is not simply first-aid pastoral care or compassion for someone with AIDS.»

«It is a message that answers man’s most profound questions,» the archbishop added. «Hence, we are anchored in a solid hope. So, health care ministry is not possible without total, unconditional hope in the Lord’s resurrection.

«This pastoral care is then articulated concretely in the Church’s ministries, which are word, sanctification and communion. Moreover, we propose 53 programs to the bishops of the world, to be implemented between the years 2002 and 2007. There can be other programs, but what is clear is that in the Church there are only these three ministries.»

The Feb. 9-11 meeting will touch on a range of topics, from generic medicines, to «morality in health,» the archbishop explained.

«All the very grave problems of biogenetics will be touched upon, especially therapeutic cloning,» he added.

The «basic principle will be: Man must be the end of science and technology,» he stressed. «Man is the ethical criterion. Technology can advance without knowing where it is headed. We will say: ‘Yes, to all technology, but for man to live, not to die.'»

The solemn liturgy of the World Day of the Sick will take place the afternoon of Feb. 11, with the anointing of the sick, in the National Shrine of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.

The as-yet unnamed papal envoy will preside over the Mass. John Paul II’s Message for the 2003 World Day of the Sick will be published beforehand.


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