World Day Aims to Renew Health Care Ministry

Event Invites Reflection on Bioethical Questions

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 1, 2004 ( John Paul II hopes that the forthcoming World Day of the Sick and its focus on the Shrine of Lourdes in France will «renew health care ministry worldwide.»

The Pope made that point in a letter to Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, when naming him special envoy to the celebrations. The letter was written in Latin and published Saturday by the Holy See.

The first World Day of the Sick, called by the Holy Father in 1993, was also held in Lourdes. Last year it was held in Washington, D.C.

The World Day of the Sick is observed every year on Feb. 11, feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers. The council directs, coordinates, and promotes the communion of health ministry services carried out in the Church.

In his message the Pope addresses the new ethical challenges posed by genetic engineering.

«Every authentic progress in this field is to be encouraged, provided that it always respects the rights and dignity of the person from his or her conception,» the message says. «Indeed, no one can claim the right to destroy or indiscriminately manipulate the life of the human being.»

On Tuesday, Feb. 10, a day of reflection has been planned at Lourdes, open to all those interested in the present challenges posed by life and health, especially medical professionals and health care ministry workers.

Cardinal Lozano Barragán will speak on the topic «The New Paradigm: Bioethics Closed and Bioethics Open to Transcendence.» On Feb. 11, the cardinal will preside over the closing Mass, during which the papal message will be read.

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