John Paul II Seen as Great Friend of the Sick

Spokesman Says Beatification Will Highlight Christian Spirit in Illness

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 20, 2011 ( Reflecting on last Friday’s World Day of the Sick, the Vatican spokesman says he thinks Pope John Paul II’s beatification on May 1 will bring a focus to illness and revive the Christian spirit with which the Polish Pope endured Parkinson’s disease.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, gave this prediction on the most recent edition of Vatican Television’s “Octava Dies.” He recalled how it was John Paul II who wanted the Church to celebrate a World Day of the Sick each Feb. 11, feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.

“Sickness,” the Jesuit said, “is such an essential part of the human experience that it is also necessarily at the heart of every experience of faith. It touches every person directly in his flesh or in his mind, or persons who are close to him and dear,” and “it involves man in the depths of his soul, challenging love, hope and faith itself.”

“Jesus Christ, with the attention that he paid to the suffering, with his personal passion and death, is the most credible word of comfort for the sick, and the whole Church must try to be this way. [She must be] the animator of solidarity and love in every dimension of the human community,” he added.

A lot of love

Father Lombardi characterized John Paul II as a “great witness to sickness lived in faith.”

“Like Jesus who carries the cross, he too is a great friend and intercessor for every sick person,” the spokesman asserted.

Father Lombardi went on to reflect that “beyond comfort there is commitment.”

He explained: “Benedict XVI says: ‘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’ (“Spe Salvi,” 38).”

“Suffering calls for and awakens love,” Father Lombardi concluded. “A lot of love. Without sickness we would not know the depth of love. We need to understand it and live it to grow in humanity.”

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