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"Offer Integral Care ... Human Support"

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 12, 2007 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Sunday before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Church remembers today the first apparition of the Virgin Mary to St. Bernadette, which occurred Feb. 11, 1858, in the grotto of Massabielle in Lourdes, a miraculous event which has made that town, located in the French Pyrenees, a world center of pilgrimages and of intense Marian spirituality.

In that place, now almost 150 years ago, the Virgin's appeal for prayer and penance resounds forcefully, an almost permanent echo of the invitation with which Jesus began his pilgrimage in Galilee: "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the Gospel" (Mark 1:15).

That shrine has become, moreover, the object of numerous sick pilgrims, who on listening to Mary Most Holy, receive the encouragement to accept their sufferings and to offer them for the salvation of the world, uniting them to those of Christ crucified.

Because of this link between Lourdes and human suffering, 15 years ago, our beloved John Paul II wished that the World Day of the Sick be celebrated on the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.

This year, the heart of this celebration will be in the city of Seoul, capital of South Korea, where I have sent as my representative Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry. To him and to all those gathered there, I send my cordial greetings.

I would like to extend my greetings to health agents worldwide, aware of the importance in our society of their service to the sick, above all, I wish to express my spiritual closeness and affection to our sick brothers and sisters, with a special remembrance for those who are affected by particularly serious or painful illnesses: Our attention is dedicated in particular to them on this day.

It is necessary to support the development of palliative treatments that offer integral care and dispense to incurably sick people that human support and spiritual accompaniment they so need.

This afternoon, in St. Peter's Basilica, numerous sick people and pilgrims will gather around Cardinal Camillo Ruini, who will preside at the Eucharistic celebration. At the end of the Holy Mass, I will have the joy, as last year, of meeting with them, reliving the spiritual climate that is felt in the Grotto of Massabielle. With the Angelus, prayer, I would now like to commend to the protection of the Immaculate Virgin, the sick and those suffering in body and spirit throughout the world.

[After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted pilgrims in six languages. In English, he said:]

To all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors I extend a warm welcome. In a special way I greet the music directors from the United States representing the National Association of Pastoral Musicians. In the Beatitudes which we hear in today's Gospel, Jesus teaches us the way to true happiness. May your time in Rome make you hunger and thirst more deeply for his justice and peace. Upon all of you, I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.

© Copyright 2007 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Pope, Benedict, Sick, World, Care, Life, Angelus

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