VATICAN CITY, DEC. 3, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The experience of sickness and suffering can become a school of hope, maturity and union with Christ, and benefit the whole Church, Benedict XVI says in his message for the 18th World Day of the Sick.
This year’s world day, celebrated on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, Feb. 11, coincides with the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry.
The Holy Father’s message, published today in Italian with translations forthcoming, pointed out that “with the grace of God received and lived in daily life, the experience of sickness and suffering can become a school of hope.”
In this Year for Priests, the Pope asked the sick to “pray and offer your sufferings for priests, so that they will be faithful to their vocation and that their ministry will be rich in spiritual fruits, for the benefit of the whole Church.”
The text also mentioned those who care for the sick and suffering. Benedict XVI thanked them and encouraged them to continue carrying out this “important task” and showing “more generous apostolic zeal.”
Specifically the Holy Father encouraged priests — whom he addressed as “sign and instrument of the compassion of Christ” — to spare no effort in offering care and consolation.
“Time spent by the side of someone being tested is revealed fruitful in grace in all the other dimensions of pastoral care,” he affirmed.
Love made service
The Pontiff also pointed out the need to express the “humanitarian and spiritual action of the ecclesial community to the sick and to those who suffer.”
He mentioned health care facilities directly managed by dioceses and those that were born from the generosity of religious institutes.
The Bishop of Rome describes these institutions as “a precious patrimony” that respond to the fact that “love also needs an organization, as a premise for an ordered community service.”
“The creation of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry, 25 years ago, is part of this ecclesial concern for the world of health,” he added.
“In the present historical-cultural moment, one sees even more the need of an ecclesial presence that is attentive and on the spot at the side of the sick,” the Pope observed.
He also called for “a presence in society capable of transmitting in an effective way the evangelical values for the protection of human life in all its phases, from its conception until its natural end.”
Citing “Spe Salvi,” the Holy Father affirmed that “what cures man is not to shun suffering and flee in the face of pain, but the capacity to accept tribulation, to mature in it and find meaning in it through union with Christ, who suffered with infinite love.”