Pope Benedict XVI called the sick and healthy to reflect on the wounds of Christ in a new message issued to mark the Feb. 11 celebration of the World Day of the Sick.
Top members of the Vatican's "health ministry" were at the Vatican press office Feb. 3 to release the Pope’s message.
In it, the Pope recalled the suffering of Christ he saw in the image of the Shroud of Turin during his 2010 visit to the city. The image, he said, "invites us to reflect on he who took upon himself the passion of man, of every time and place, even our sufferings, our difficulties, our sins."
The wounds present from his passion and death, "become the sign of our redemption, of forgiveness and reconciliation with the Father" gained by his resurrection, the Pope explained. The wounds were a test for the first disciple's faith and for Christians today, he pointed out.
Just as it was for the disciples, suffering is still full of mystery and difficult to bear, he wrote.
But, said the Pope, "it is precisely through the wounds of Christ that we are able to see with eyes of hope, all the evils that afflict humanity. In rising again, the Lord did not remove suffering and evil from the world, but he defeated them at their root."
He called all sick and suffering people to follow Christ as "messengers of a joy that does not fear pain, the joy of the Resurrection."
The message included a special call for young people to unite themselves to Christ in the Eucharist and to recognize and serve him in helping the poor, suffering and those in difficulty.
The Pope said all believers should join together to eliminate loneliness and be part of the great human family. He asked that the sick in particular draw from the source of Jesus' pierced heart with faith and joy.
He prayed for "peace and healing of heart" for all people and said he joins in the suffering and hopes of "each and everyone," united to them through the crucified and risen Christ.
Pope Benedict also used his message to call on health care systems to invest more in providing help and support to the suffering, particularly the poorest.
The message concluded with an invitation to all Catholics working in the health care sector to recognize Christ's face, which he called "the Face of faces," in the sick.
During the press conference, the president of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Health Workers, Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, emphasized that such attention to suffering in the world builds the culture of life.
He said that there are 110,000 Catholic health structures worldwide working to do so.