VATICAN CITY, DEC. 19, 2010 ( A society is judged by how it treats those who suffer, says Benedict XVI.
The Pope said this in his message for the 19th World Day of the Sick, which will be observed Feb. 11, on the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. The Vatican press office published the message Saturday.

The Holy Father noted that the world day is an opportunity to "reflect on the mystery of suffering and, above all, to make our communities and civil society more sensitive to sick brothers and sisters."

"If every man is our brother," the Pontiff began, "much more so are the weak, the suffering and those needful of care, and they must be at the center of our attention, so that none of them feel forgotten or marginalized."

"In fact," he continued, "the true measure of humanity is essentially determined in relationship to suffering and to the sufferer.

"This holds true both for the individual and for society. A society unable to accept its suffering members and incapable of helping to share their suffering and to bear it inwardly through 'com-passion' is a cruel and inhuman society."

Benedict XVI also offers a brief reflection on the Shroud of Turin, which he said "invites us to meditate on him who took upon himself man's suffering of every age and place, even our sufferings, our difficulties, our sins."

"How many faithful over the course of history have passed before that sepulchral winding sheet," he said, "which covered the body of a crucified man, which in everything corresponds to what the Gospels transmit about the passion and death of Jesus!"

"The Son of God has suffered," the Pope continued, "he has died, but he is risen, it is precisely because of this that those wounds become the sign of our redemption, of our forgiveness and reconciliation with the Father; they become, however, a test for the faith of the disciples and our faith: every time that the Lord speaks of his passion and death, they do not understand, they reject it, they oppose it. 
"For them as for us, suffering is always charged with mystery, difficult to accept and bear."

Addressing the "sick and suffering ones," Benedict XVI said that "it is precisely through the sufferings of the Christ that we are able to see, with eyes of hope, all the maladies that afflict humanity. Rising, the Lord did not take away suffering and evil from the world, but he defeated them at their root. To the arrogance of Evil he opposed the omnipotence of his Love."

"I repeat this message to you, dear brothers and sisters, so that you become witnesses through your suffering, your life and your faith," the Pontiff added.

Addressing the youth, "especially those who live the experience of sickness," the Pontiff noted that the "Passion and the Cross of Jesus cause fear, because they seem to be the negation of life."

"In reality," he countered, "it is exactly the contrary! The cross is God's 'yes' to mankind, the highest and most intense expression of his love and the source from which flows eternal life. From the pierced heart of Jesus this divine life flows. He alone is capable of liberating the world from evil and make his kingdom of justice, of peace and of love grow, the kingdom to which we all aspire."

He urged the youth to "see" and to "meet" Jesus in the Eucharist, "where he is present for us in a real way, to the point of making himself food for the journey, but know how to recognize and serve him also in those brothers who are poor, sick, suffering and in difficulty, who have need of your help."

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