VATICAN CITY, FEB. 9, 2003 ( Here is a translation of John Paul II's address today, before praying the Angelus with several thousand pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters!

1. Next February 11, on the liturgical memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Lourdes, the World Day of the Sick will be observed. It is a significant occasion, which helps ecclesial communities to remain always very attentive toward sick and suffering brothers and sisters, and encourages health workers to attend to their professional services with constant devotion.

The coincidence of this occasion with the date of the apparition of the Virgin at Lourdes makes of that place, consecrated by the presence of Mary, a constant reference point for the Day of the Sick. From the cave of Massabielle, Mary does not cease to send out to the suffering world a consoling message of trust and hope.

2. As noted, the main celebrations of the day will take place this year in the majestic National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC, capital of the United States of America. I express heartfelt gratitude to those who have organized the different manifestations of this important ecclesial event.

I express my appreciation to doctors and nurses, as well as to social assistants, volunteers, priests, and men and women religious who work in the vast field of assistance to the sick. May the Day of the Sick renew in each one the desire to serve those who suffer with devotion, imitating Jesus, Good Samaritan of humanity.

3. At this time of international concern, we all feel the need to turn to the Lord to implore the great gift of peace. As I revealed in the apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, "the grave challenges confronting the world at the start of this new millennium lead us to think that only an intervention from on high [...] can give reason to hope for a brighter future" (n. 40). Numerous prayer initiatives are taking place in these days in various parts of the world. While I encourage them wholeheartedly, I invite all to take the Rosary in hand to invoke the intercession of the Most Holy Virgin: “one cannot recite the Rosary without feeling oneself involved in a specific commitment of service to peace” (Ibid., n. 6).

[Translation by ZENIT]