VATICAN CITY (Catholic Online) – Pope Benedict XVI called upon the international medical community to develop treatments to better care for the terminally ill that meets their needs for spiritual and physical support and provides for their full human dignity.
WOMEN ATTEND MEETING WITH POPE – Women attend a special service for the sick with Pope Benedict XVI in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Feb. 11. Marking the World Day of the Sick, the pope offered his prayers and encouragement to the suffering and to those who care for them. (CNS/Catholic Press Photo)
In Feb. 11 remarks before reciting the Angelus before thousands gathered at St. Peter’s Square here on the 15th World Day of the Sick, Pope Benedict XVI sent greetings "to health agents worldwide, aware of the importance in our society of their service to the sick."
“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,” the pope said.
He noted that the World Day of the Sick is held on the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, recalling the first apparition of the Virgin Mary to St. Bernadette, which occurred Feb. 11, 1858.
The shrine in Lourdes has become a world center of pilgrimages and of intense Marian spirituality, the pope said, adding that it has become “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.”
The pope expressed “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.”
He commended “the sick and those suffering in body and spirit throughout the world” to the protection of the Virgin Mary.
In the afternoon following the Angelus message, Pope Benedict met with thousands of sick people, who earlier attended a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, presided over by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the pope's vicar for Rome.
In a message for the observance of the 15th World Day of the Sick Feb. 11, the pope said that the incurably and terminally ill have the right of medical assistance and spiritual care to bear sickness and death in a dignified manner.
Pope Benedict issued challenges to the medical community, to the church and to national governments to ensure that care for those dying with terminal diseases is improved.
“The church turns her eyes to those who suffer and call attention to the incurably ill, many of whom are dying from terminal diseases,” he said. “They are found on every continent, particularly in places where poverty and hardship cause immense misery and grief.”
The official international celebration of the World Day of the Sick was held in Seoul, South Korea, Feb. 11, with a conference sponsored by the Vatican and a Mass.
The pope said, in the message dated Dec. 8 and released Dec. 13, that he would “be spiritually present” there, “united with those meeting to discuss the plight of the incurably ill in our world and encouraging the efforts of Christian communities in their witness to the Lord’s tenderness and mercy.”
Observances also were scheduled in dioceses or parishes throughout the world during the weekend of Feb. 10-11.
Pope Benedict XVI authorized special indulgences in order "to enrich" the World Day of the Sick and to highlight Christian teaching on "the value and function of suffering," according to a Feb. 5 Vatican statement.
The pope called for the implementation of “just social policies” to help in the elimination of “the causes of many diseases” and the improvement of care for the dying and the terminally ill.
“There is a need to promote policies which create conditions where human beings can bear even incurable illnesses and death in a dignified manner,” he said, pointing to the need for more palliative care centers.
“This is a right belonging to every human being, one which we must all be committed to defend,” the pontiff said.
Acknowledging that human life “has intrinsic limitations and sooner or later it ends in death,” Pope Benedict said that health professionals and national officials must continue to promote advancements that will limit the suffering now faced by too many.
“Many millions of people in our world still experience insanitary living conditions and lack access to much-needed medical resources, often of the most basic kind, with the result that the number of human beings considered ‘incurable’ is greatly increased,” he said.
“Sickness inevitably brings with it a moment of crisis and sober confrontation with one’s own personal situation,” the pope said. “Despite the advances of science, a cure cannot be found for every illness, and thus, in hospitals, hospices and homes throughout the world we encounter the sufferings of our many brothers and sisters who are incurably and often terminally ill.”
While the Catholic Church has always sought to follow the “example of the Good Samaritan” in showing “particular concern for the infirm,” the pope urged that Catholic health-care professionals, pastoral ministers, volunteers and family members to continue to “stand alongside the suffering and to attend to the dying striving to preserve their dignity at these significant moments of human existence.”
The holy father also spoke directly to “my dear brothers and sisters suffering from incurable and terminal diseases.”
He urged them to reflect upon “the sufferings of Christ crucified” and place their trust in God’s hands, knowing that “your sufferings, united to those of Christ, will prove fruitful for the needs of the church and the world.”
“It is my hope that, wherever you are, you will always find the spiritual encouragement and strength needed to nourish your faith and bring you closer to the father of life,” the pope said.
Two weeks ago, Pope Benedict reached out to those suffering from ravages of leprosy, following up on a Vatican message last week not to allow it to become “a forgotten disease.”
In remarks delivered after praying the Angelus on the occasion of the 54th World Day of Leprosy, Jan. 28, in St. Peter’s Square here, Pope Benedict offered the hope that all afflicted with Hansen’s disease receive “proper treatment in conditions of dignity.”
In a message released Jan. 25 by the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry on the occasion of the World Day of Leprosy, Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, council president, urged that leprosy remain a grave concern to the world community, saying that the Catholic Church has always recognized its mission in following the example of Jesus in ministering to those afflicted by leprosy.
“The church, faithful to her mission, has always repeated the merciful action of the divine teacher who, during the act of healing lepers, indicated that redemption was underway,” the cardinal said, extending the Vatican council’s fraternal wishes for those “afflicted by leprosy and to those people, even though they have been healed, who bear on their bodies disabilities caused by this malady.”
He called upon the international community to help nations where leprosy exists, especially those in the developing world, provide “environmental conditions” where access to health care, prevention services and hygiene is significantly improved and thereby work toward the “total elimination” of Hansen’s bacillus, the bacterium that causes the infectious disease.
The head of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry urged Catholics to “share in the great service of the recovery of sick bodies, thereby making themselves authentic witnesses to the message that ‘Christ the physician’ is with them, and for them, to achieve the ‘overall salvation’ of every person.”
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for December 2013
General Intention: Victimized Children. That children who are victims of abandonment or violence may find the love and protection they need.
Missionary Intention: Prepare the Savior's Coming. That Christians, enlightened by the Word incarnate, may prepare humanity for the Savior's coming.