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SPECIAL: Message for 2004 World Day of the Sick

Event to Focus on Lourdes

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 1, 2004 (Zenit) - Here is the text of John Paul's message for the 12th World Day of the Sick, which on Feb. 11 will focus attention on the Shrine of Lourdes in France.

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To my Venerable Brother Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán President of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care

1. The World Day of the Sick, an event held on a different Continent each year, takes on a singular meaning this time. Indeed, it will take place in Lourdes, France, site of the apparition of the Blessed Virgin on 11 February 1858, which since that time has become the destination of many pilgrimages. In that mountainous region, Our Lady wished to demonstrate her maternal love, especially towards the suffering and the sick. Since then, she continues to be present through her solicitude.

This Shrine was chosen because in 2004 is the 150th Anniversary of the proclamation of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception. It was on 8 December 1854 with the Dogmatic Bull "Ineffabilis Deus" that my Predecessor, Bl. Pius IX of happy memory, affirmed that "the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God" (DS, 2803). At Lourdes, speaking in the native dialect, Mary said: "Que soy era Immaculada Councepciou" [I am the Immaculate Conception].

2. With these words, did not the Blessed Virgin wish to express the link that unites her to health and to life? If death entered the world because of original sin, by the merits of Jesus Christ, God preserved Mary free from every stain of sin, and salvation and life came to us (cf. Romans 5:12-21).

The Dogma of the Immaculate Conception introduces us into the heart of the mystery of Creation and Redemption (cf. Ephesians 1: 4-12; 3: 9-11). God wanted to give life in abundance to the human creature (cf. John 10:10), on the condition, however, that his initiative would be met by a free and loving response. Man tragically cut off vital dialogue with the Creator, refusing this gift with the disobedience that led to sin. To the "yes" of God, source of the fullness of life, the "no" of man was placed in opposition, motivated by proud self-sufficiency, harbinger of death (cf. Romans 5:19).

Entire humanity was heavily involved in this closure towards God. In view of Christ's merits, only Mary of Nazareth was conceived without original sin and was completely open to the divine design so that the Heavenly Father was able to accomplish in her the project that he had for mankind.

The Immaculate Conception introduces the harmonious interlacing between the "yes" of God and the "yes" that Mary pronounced without reserve when the angel brought the heavenly announcement (cf. Luke 1:38). Her "yes" in the name of humanity reopened the doors of Heaven to the world, thanks to the Incarnation of the Word of God in her womb by the work of the Holy Spirit (cf. Luke 1:35). In this way, the original project of creation was restored and strengthened in Christ; the Virgin Mother also shares in this project.

3. The keystone of history lies here: with the Immaculate Conception of Mary began the great work of Redemption that was brought to fulfillment in the precious blood of Christ. In him, every person is called to achieve the perfection of holiness (cf. Colossians 1:28).

The Immaculate Conception is, therefore, the promising dawn of the radiant day of Christ, who with his death and Resurrection was to restore full harmony between God and humanity. If Jesus is the source of life that conquers death, Mary is the attentive mother who comes to meet the needs of her children, obtaining for them the health of soul and body. This is the message that the Shrine of Lourdes constantly re-proposes to the devout and to pilgrims. This is also the meaning behind the healings of body and spirit that take place at the grotto of Massabielle.

On that site, since the day of the apparition to Bernadette Soubirous, Mary has "healed" pain and sickness, also restoring many of her sons and daughters to health of body. She has worked much more surprising miracles, however, in the souls of believers, preparing them for the encounter with her Son Jesus, the authentic answer to the deepest expectations of the human heart. The Holy Spirit, who covered her with his shadow at the moment of the Incarnation of the Word, transforms the soul of countless sick people who turn to her. Even when they do not obtain the gift of bodily health, they are able to receive another that is much more important: the conversion of heart, source of peace and interior joy. This gift transforms their existence and ...

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