Benedict XVI has announced that the World Day of the Sick will be celebrated this liturgical year on February 11, the 25th anniversary of the institution of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Health Care Workers. The Pontiff drew attention to the essential nature of pastoral service for the sick and asked those who are ill "to pray and offer up their sufferings for priests" in this Year of the Priest.
For February 11, the Pope said, the Church would like to "raise awareness in the ecclesial community of the importance of pastoral service in the vast world of health..." It's a service, that plays an integral part in healthcare's mission following "the same saving mission of Christ."
"Through the mystery of his passion, death and resurrection, human suffering obtains sense and fullness of light."
Benedict quoted the words of his predecessor to "illuminate" this mystery. John Paul II wrote that in Christ's death, human suffering reached it's culmination and also entered into a new dimension of love, obtained through suffering.
"The Cross of Christ became a spring, from which gush rivers of living water."
The Pontiff also highlighted the necessity for a "logic of love" practiced with the little ones and the needy as witnessed in Christ's washing of the apostles' feet and called for every Christian to relive the parable of the Good Samaritan.
"Go and do the same," says Jesus at the end of the parable.
"With these words he turns also to us," indicated the Pope. He calls us to see that "the experience of sickness and suffering can become a lesson of hope."
It's not "resting from the suffering or running from the pain that cures man, but it is his capacity to accept tribulation and to mature in it, to find sense through the union with Christ, who suffered with infinite love."
Pope Benedict called particular attention to the institutions that provide humanitarian and spiritual healing to the sick and suffering, saying there has never been more need for them in the world. He recognized the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Health Care Workers specifically. The council will celebrate its 25th anniversary of service this coming year.
The Holy Father concluded with a message directed to priests and the sick. To the priests, as "ministers of the sick," he said, "not to hold back in giving care and comfort to the sick." To the sick, he implored, "I ask you to pray and offer your sufferings for priests, that they may remain faithful to their vocations and that their ministry be rich in spiritual fruits, to the benefit of the entire church."