Half a Million Volunteers Recognized in Brazil's Lent Campaign

Pope Sends Message Encouraging Solidarity With the Sick

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By Thacio Siqueira

BRASILIA, Brazil, FEB. 23, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI sent his encouragement to the Brazilian bishops’ Lent campaign, reminding them and the volunteers working in the project, that the sick «often suffer more through solitude and abandonment than through their infirmity.»

The Brazilian 2012 Campaign of Fraternity (CF) opened on Ash Wednesday at the headquarters of the Brazilian Episcopal Conference (CNBB) in Brasilia.

Among those present were officials from the CNBB, Maria Cristina dos Anjos, national executive director of Caritas, and the Minister of Health, Alexandre Rocha Santos Padilha.

The Caritas director explained that the heart of the annual campaign is the collection held on Palm Sunday, which goes to the National Solidarity Fund. Last year this amounted to just over 5 million reales (almost $3 million).

Benedict XVI’s support message was addressed to Cardinal Raymundo Damasceno Assis, archbishop of Aparecida and president of the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil.

Father Luis Carlos Dias, executive secretary of the Campaign of Fraternity, read the message to those gathered. In his message, the Pope recalled how the purpose of the campaign is «to arouse a greater fraternal and community spirit in caring for the sick, and to invite society to ensure that everyone has access to the means necessary for a healthy life.»

Benedict XVI expressed his hope that the campaign «may arouse increasingly profound solidarity with sick people in the hearts of the faithful, and of all people of good will. The sick often suffer more through solitude and abandonment than through their infirmity. We must remember the Jesus identified Himself with them: ‘I was sick and you took care of me.'» 

«At the same time we must help them discover that, although sickness is a difficult trial, it can also, in union with the crucified and risen Christ, be a form of participation in the mystery of Jesus’ suffering for the salvation of the world.

Indeed, «by offering our pain to God through Christ, we can share in the victory of good over evil, because God makes our offering, our act of love, fruitful.»

More state help

The secretary general of the CNBB and auxiliary bishop of Brasilia, Leonardo Ulrich Steiner, said that the state needed to pay more attention to the health of aborigines and quilombolas [descendants of slaves], and he expressed his concern over the government’s decision to «cut back some 5 billion reales from the area of health,» thus aggravating even more the problem of the low financing.

The Minister of Health, Alexandre Rocha Santos Padilha, said that the main challenge of health care in Brazil is the country’s size. He said that he has not seen any country with more than 100 million inhabitants that has taken on the Constitutional commitment that Brazil has. The Constitution states that «health is the right of all and a duty of the state.»

Giving numbers on the role of the Church in health care in Brazil, Dr. Andre Luiz de Oliveira, former national coordinator of the Church’s pastoral work in this area, said that it has 500,000 volunteer agents in the different areas. There are 230,000 working to help children alone, and 30,000 caring for the elderly, along with 15,000 to 20,000 for those suffering from AIDS. 

Concluding the meeting Bishop Steiner expressed his hope that this year’s campaign will reach its objectives. He invited everyone to pray the official prayer of the Campaign of Fraternity: «Lord God of love, Father of goodness. We praise and thank you for the gift of life, for the love with which you look after the whole of creation. In his mercy, your Son Jesus Christ took up the cross of the sick and of all those who suffer, he shed on them the hope of life in fullness. Send us, Lord, your Spirit. Guide your Church, so that she, through conversion, will become increasingly supportive of the sorrows and illnesses of the people, and may health spread on earth.»

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