World Day of the Sick to Highlight the Immaculate Conception

Expected to Gather 25,000 at Shrine of Lourdes

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 5, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The Immaculate Conception, Europe and the afflicted will be focus for the 12th World Day of the Sick, in the Shrine of Lourdes next week.

This year the World Day returns to Lourdes, France, where it started in 1993. On this occasion the theme is “The Immaculate Conception and Health Care in the Christian Roots of Europe.”

The World Day is expected to gather 25,000 people at the shrine in the Massabielle grotto, where the Blessed Virgin appeared to Bernadette Soubirous on Feb. 11, 1858.

At a press conference today, the president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán, said: “The 12th World Day of the Sick will be held in Lourdes, as desired by the Holy Father, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.”

“Our objective is to renew health care ministry all over the world and especially in Europe through the celebration” of this Marian anniversary, he said.

“We think that in the Christian roots of Europe there is always the search for harmony through Christ; and Mary in her Immaculate Conception begins this Christian harmony that will mean fullness in health and life in her Assumption,” the cardinal explained.

The World Day of the Sick will focus on three dimensions: pastoral, theological and liturgical.

The first day, next Monday, will be dedicated to a meeting of representatives of episcopal conferences on the situation of health care ministry in Europe. Bishops from all over the world have been invited to attend.

On the second day, the topic of bioethics and “the meaning of the Immaculate Conception as a source of health will be discussed,” the cardinal continued.

On the third day, the solemn welcoming of the special papal envoy, Cardinal Lozano Barragán himself, will take place, as well as the closing Mass. Provision has been made for live connection with the Vatican on Feb. 11, at the very hour the Holy Father holds his Wednesday general audience.

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