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John Paul II's Message for World Day of the Sick

10/1/2004 - 10:00 AM PST

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"Christ, Hope for Africa"

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 1, 2004 (Zenit) - Here is John Paul II's Message for the 13th World Day of the Sick, the main celebrations of which will be held in Cameroon on Feb. 11.

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Message of the Holy Father John Paul II for the XIII World Day of the Sick

Yaoundé, Cameroon, February 11, 2005

Christ, Hope for Africa

1. In 2005, ten years on, Africa will once again host the principal celebrations of the World Day of the Sick, which will be held at the Sanctuary of Mary the Queen of the Apostles, in Yaoundé, Cameroon. This choice will offer an opportunity to express practical solidarity towards the populations of that continent, who are afflicted by grave failings in health care. In this way, a further step forward will be taken in the implementation of the commitment that the Christians of Africa, ten years ago or so, made during the third World Day of the Sick, namely to become 'Good Samaritans' towards their brothers and sisters in difficulty.

Indeed, in my post-Synod Exhortation "Ecclesia in Africa," taking up the observations made by many of the Synod Fathers, I wrote that "contemporary Africa can be compared to the man who went down from Jerusalem to Jericho; he fell among robbers who stripped him, beat him and departed, leaving him half dead (cf. Luke 10:30-37)." And I added: "Africa is a Continent where countless human beings -- men and women, children and young people -- are lying, as it were, on the edge of the road, sick, injured, disabled, marginalized and abandoned. They are in dire need of Good Samaritans who will come to their aid" (n. 41: AAS, 88 [1996], 27).

2. The World Day of the Sick also has as its purpose that of stimulating reflection on the notion of health, which in its most complete meaning also alludes to a situation of harmony of the human being with himself and with the world that surrounds him. Now, it is precisely this vision that Africa expresses in a markedly rich way in her cultural tradition, as is born witness to by so many artistic expressions, of both a civil and religious character, which are full of a sense of joy, of rhythm, and of musicality.

Unfortunately, however, this harmony is today strongly disturbed. So many diseases devastate this Continent, and amongst them all, in particular, there is the scourge of AIDS, "which is sowing suffering and death in many parts of Africa" (ibid., n. 116; 1.c., 69).

Conflicts and wars, which torment by no means few regions in Africa, make interventions designed to prevent and treat these diseases more difficult. In camps for refugees and displaced persons there often lie people who even lack the supplies that are indispensable to their survival. I exhort those who have the possibility to do so to become deeply committed to ending such tragedies (cf. ibid., n. 117:1.c., 69-70).

I also remind those who are responsible for the arms trade of what I wrote in that document: "Those who foment wars in Africa by the arms trade are accomplices in abominable crimes against humanity" (ibid., n. 118: 1.c., 70).

3. As regards the drama of AIDS, I have already had occasion in other circumstances to emphasize that AIDS is also a "pathology of the spirit." In order to fight AIDS in a responsible way, its prevention should be increased through education in respect for the sacred value of life and through formation in the correct practice of sexuality. Indeed, although many infections by contagion through blood take place, especially during the course of pregnancy -- infections that should be combated with every endeavor -- those that take place by a sexual route, which can be avoided first and foremost through responsible behavior and the observance of chastity, are far greater in number.

The Bishops taking part in the above mentioned Synod for Africa of 1994, referring to the role that irresponsible sexual behavior plays in the spread of this disease, formulated a recommendation that I would like to propose again here: "The companionship, joy, happiness and peace which Christian marriage and fidelity provide, and the safeguard which chastity gives, must be continuously presented to the faithful, particularly the young" (Apostolic Exhortation "Ecclesia in Africa," n. 116: AAS, 88 [1996], 27).

4. Everyone should feel involved in the fight against AIDS. It is up to those in government and the civil authorities to provide, in relation to this same subject, clear and correct information at the service of citizens, and also to devote sufficient resources to the education of young people and to health care. I encourage international organizations to promote initiatives in this field that are inspired by wisdom and solidarity, always seeking to defend human dignity and uphold the inviolable right to life.

A convinced applause ...

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