Sickness Is Linked to Advent, Says Pope

Through Illness, Christ Speaks Words of Love

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ROME, DEC. 13, 2009 ( Benedict XVI is affirming that the sick can live Advent in a deeper way, because illness is a similar time of waiting for God to transform suffering into hope and salvation.

The Pope affirmed this today while visiting the sick and their caregivers at the Hospice Foundation of Rome, which provides free aid to people with terminal cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (known as Lou Gehrig’s disease).

Some 30 patients are cared for in the hospice headquarters, while another hundred are assisted at home.

The hospital was founded 11 years ago under the name Sacred Heart Hospice, on the initiative of the Circle of St. Peter and the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Roma.

The Pontiff addressed those gathered at the hospital, affirming, «We know how some grave pathologies inevitably cause, for those who suffer from them, moments of crisis, of bewilderment and serious confrontation with their personal situation.»

«In every part of the world we often meet suffering of many incurable brothers and sisters, who are frequently in the terminal phase,» he acknowledged.

The Pontiff affirmed that «they must be respected and supported while they face the difficulties and sufferings linked with their health conditions.»

Palliative care

He continued: «Toward this end, today one takes recourse more and more to the use of palliative care, which is able to soothe pain that comes from the illness and to help infirm persons to get through it with dignity.

«Nevertheless, together with the indispensible palliative care clinics, it is necessary to offer concrete gestures of love, of nearness and Christian solidarity to the sick, to meet their need for understanding, comfort and constant encouragement.»

The Holy Father affirmed his closeness and affection for each of the patients and families, who he greeted individually.

He affirmed, «Your illness is a very painful and unique trial, but before the mystery of God, who took on our mortal flesh, it receives its meaning and becomes a gift and an occasion for sanctification.»

Benedict XVI said: «When the suffering and discomfort are the worst, know that Christ is associating you with his cross because through you he wants to speak a word of love to those who have strayed from the road of life and, closed within their empty egoism, live in sin and separation from God.

«In fact, your health conditions testify that the true life is not here, but with God, where every one of us will find joy if we humbly walk in the footsteps of the true man: Jesus of Nazareth, Master and Lord.»

«In the light of faith we can read in sickness and suffering a special experience of Advent,» the Pope said, «a visit from God, who, in a mysterious way comes to bring liberation from solitude and meaninglessness and transform suffering in time into a meeting with him, into hope and salvation.»

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