Angelus Address: On the Meaning and Value of Sickness

“Faithful to this teaching, the Church has always considered the care of the sick as an integral part of its mission.”

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Here is the translation of Pope Francis’ words before and after the recitation of the Angelus prayer to the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

Today’s Gospel (cfr Mk. 1,29-39) presents Jesus, who, after having preached on the Sabbath at the synagogue, heals many sick people. Preach and heal: this is Jesus’ main activity in his public life. Through preaching He announces the Kingdom of God and through healing He shows that it is close, that the Kingdom of God is in our midst.

Entering the house of Simon Peter, Jesus sees that his mother-in-law is in bed sick; immediately he takes her hand, heals her and makes her stand up. After the sunset, when, the Sabbath was over, when the people could leave and bring Him the sick, He heals a multitude of people afflicted by every kind of sickness: physical, mental, spiritual. Coming to the earth to announce and fulfill the salvation of the whole man and all mankind, Jesus shows a particular fondness for those wounded in body and in spirit: the poor, the sinners, the possessed, the sick, the marginalized. He thus reveals Himself has a physician of both body and soul, the good Samaritan of man. He is the true Savior! Jesus saves, Jesus cares, Jesus heals!

This reality of Jesus’ healing of the sick invites us to reflect on the meaning and value of sickness. This reminds us also of the World Day of the Sick, which we will celebrate on Wednesday, February 11th, the liturgical feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Lourdes. I bless the initiatives that are being prepared for this Day, in particular the Vigil that will take place in Rome on the evening of February 10th. And here I pause to remember the president of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Health Care Workers, Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, who is very ill in Poland. Let us say a prayer for him, for his health because it was he who prepared this World Day. And he accompanies us with his suffering in this day. Let us pray for Archbishop Zimowski.

The salvific work of Christ does not end with his person during his earthly life; it continues through the Church, sacrament of love and of the tenderness of God for mankind. Sending his disciples in mission, Jesus confers upon them a dual mandate: announce the Gospel of salvation and heal the sick (Mt.10,7-8). Faithful to this teaching, the Church has always considered the care of the sick as an integral part of its mission.

“The poor and the suffering you will always have with you”, Jesus warns (cfr Mt. 26,11), and the Church continuously finds them on the street, considering the sick as a privileged path to encounter Christ, to welcome and serve Him. To care for a sick person, to welcome him and serve him is to serve Christ. The sick are the flesh of Christ!

This also happens in our time, when, despite the many advances in science, the interior and physical suffering of people raises serious questions on the meaning of sickness, pain and on the reasons for death. These are existential questions, to which the pastoral action of the Church should respond in the light of faith, having before our eyes the Cross, in which the entire salvific mystery of God the Father appears, who out of love for mankind did not spare his only Son (cfr Rm. 8,32). Therefore, each one of us is called to bring the light of the Gospel and the strength of grace to those who suffer and to those who assist them, family members, doctors, nurses, so that the service to the sick may be fulfilled ever more with humanity, with generous dedication, and with evangelical love, with tenderness.

The Mother Church, through our hands, caresses those sufferings, heals those wounds and does it with a mother’s tenderness.

Let us pray to Mary, Health of the sick, so that every person in sickness can experience, thanks to the care of those closest to them, the power of God’s love and the comfort of His paternal tenderness.

Following the Angelus, the Pope said:

Dear brothers and sisters,

Today, the liturgical feast of St. Josephine Bakhita, the African nun who as a young girl had the tragic experience of being a victim of trafficking, the International Union of Superior Generals and the Superior Generals of the religious institutes have promoted the Day of prayer and reflection against human trafficking. I encourage those who are committed in helping men, women and children who are enslaved, exploited and abused as instruments of work or pleasure and often tortured and mutilated. I hope that those who have governmental responsibilities may strive firmly to remove the causes of this shameful scourge. It’s true, it is a shameful scourge! A scourge unworthy of a civilized society. Each one of us should commit to be a voice for these our brothers and sister, humiliated in their dignity. Let us pray, all together to Our Lady. Let us pray to Our Lady for them and for their families.

Hail Mary…

I greet all the pilgrims present, the families, and the parish groups, and associations. In particular, I greet the faithful of Caravaca de la Cruz (Spain), of Anagni, Marcon, Quartirolo and Corato; the choirs from the Archdiocese of Modena-Nonantola, and the youth of Buccinasco. Especially those from Letownia. And I also see a beautiful group from Brazil!

To all I wish a good Sunday. Please, do not forget to pray for me. Have a good lunch and Goodbye!

[Translation by Junno Arocho Esteves]
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