Health Care Council Letter to Priests

«A Priest at the Bedside of a Sick Person Represents Christ»

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 9, 2009 ( Here is the letter to priests sent Oct. 1 by Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry, on the occasion of the Year for Priests.

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Dear Sick and Suffering Brothers and Sisters,
Venerable Brother Bishops and Priests responsible for pastoral care for the sick,
Esteemed Associations of the Sick,
All those who Provide Generous Service to the Sick and the Suffering,

We are in the full unfolding of the Year for Priests that was proclaimed by Benedict XVI on 19 July 2009 on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the birth of John Mary Vianney, the Patron saint of all the parish priests in the world. In his letter proclaiming a year for priests, the Holy Father wrote: ‘This Year is meant to deepen the commitment of all priests to interior renewal for the sake of a stronger and more incisive witness to the Gospel in today’s world’. In this time of grace the whole of the Christian community is called to rediscover the beauty of the priestly vocation and thus to pray for priests.

A priest at the bedside of a sick person represents Christ himself, the Divine Physician, who is not indifferent to the fate of those who suffer. Indeed, through the sacraments of the Church, administered by a priest, Jesus Christ offers to a sick person healing through reconciliation and the forgiveness of sins, through anointing with holy oil and lastly in the Eucharist, in the viaticum in which Christ himself becomes, as Giovanni Leonardi used to say, ‘the medicine of immortality’ by which ‘we are comforted, nourished, transformed into God, and participants in the divine nature (cf. 2Pt 1:4)’. In the person of the priest is thus present at the side of the sick person Christ himself who forgives, heals, comforts, takes that person by the hand and says: ‘I am the resurrection and the life; who believes in me, even though he dies, will live; whoever lives and believes in me will never die’ (Jn 11:25).

The Year for Priests will end with the solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in  June 2010, the year when the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers will celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of its creation. Indeed, the Servant of God John Paul II, of venerable memory, founded this Pontifical Council on 11 February 1985, memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Lourdes, in order to show ‘the solicitude of the Church for the sick by helping those who serve the sick and suffering, so that their apostolate of mercy may ever more effectively respond to people’s needs’ (Pastor Bonus, art. 152).

Because of this providential anniversary, I am near to each one of you and I invite you, dear sick brothers and sisters, to unceasingly address your prayers and the offering up of your sufferings to the Lord of life for the holiness of your well loved priests, so that they can with devotion and pastoral charity perform the ministry that is entrusted to them by Christ, the physician of bodies and souls. I exhort you to rediscover the beauty of the prayer of the Holy Rosary for the spiritual benefit of priests, in a special way during the month of October. In addition to this, every first Thursday and every first Friday of the month, which are respectively dedicated to devotion to the Eucharist and the Sacred Heart of Jesus, are days that are particularly suited to participation in Holy Mass and adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament.

I would like to remind you that in praying for priests one can obtain special indulgences this year. The decree of the Apostolic Penitentiary declares: ‘The Plenary Indulgence will likewise be granted to the elderly, the sick and all those who for any legitimate reason are confined to their homes who, with a mind detached from any sin and with the intention of fulfilling as soon as possible the three usual conditions, at home or wherever their impediment detains them, provided that on the above-mentioned days they recite prayers for the sanctification of priests and confidently offer the illnesses and hardships of their lives to God through Mary Queen of the Apostles. Lastly, the Partial Indulgence is granted to all the faithful every time they devoutly recite five Our Fathers, Hail Marys and Glorias, or another expressly approved prayer, in honour of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, to obtain that priests be preserved in purity and holiness of life’.

I would also like to entrust to your prayers the pilgrimage of hospital chaplains which, on the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the creation of this Pontifical Council, will take place next April, first in Lourdes and then in Ars. Indeed, a close and profound tie exists between these two French towns. When speaking specifically about this providential connection in his Letter Proclaiming a Year for Priests, Benedict XVI invoked the observation made by blessed Pope John XXIII who wrote: ‘shortly before the Curé of Ars completed his long and admirable life, the Immaculate Virgin appeared in another part of France to an innocent and humble girl, and entrusted to her a message of prayer and penance which continues, even a century later, to yield immense spiritual fruits. The life of this holy priest whose anniversary we are commemorating, anticipated in a real way the great supernatural truths taught to the seer of Massabielle…The holy Curé would always remind his faithful that “after giving us all he could, Jesus Christ wishes in addition to bequeath us his most precious possession, his Blessed Mother”’.

To you, therefore, dear sick and suffering brothers and sisters, I entrust the Church which needs your prayers and sufferings, the person of the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, and all the bishops and priests in the world, who strive every day for your sanctification. I ask from you a special prayer for priests who are sick and afflicted in their bodies who every day experience, like you, the weight of pain, together with the force of saving grace which comforts and heals the soul. Pray also for the beatification and canonisation of the Servant of God John Paul II! Pray with insistence for holy priestly and religious vocations! And here I propose to you a beautiful prayer of John Paul II which you can say every day. Pray also for me! I, also, as a priest and bishop, count on you and the offering up of your sufferings so that I may perform in the best way possible, in the fear of God, the task of being the President of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers which was entrusted to me by the Holy Father. For my part, I assure you that I will pray for you, together with those who work with me at this Pontifical Council, every day at the hour of the ‘Angelus’ with the words of Benedict XVI:

Let us pray for all sick people,
especially those who are most seriously ill,
who can in no way provide for themselves
but depend entirely on the care of others.
May each one of them experience,
in the solicitude of those who are beside them,
the power and love of God and the richness of his saving grace!
Mary, health of the sick, pray for us! (Angelus, 8.02.2009)

In this spirit of mutual prayer I impart to all of you, to your loved ones and to those who care for you, my blessing: in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit

Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski
President of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers

The Vatican, 1 October 2009

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