Mental health will be the focus of the 14th World Day of the Sick, to be held in Adelaide, Feb. 9-11.
Bishops from across Australia, New Zealand and the Asia-Pacific and hundreds of participants are expected to attend.
In his message for the occasion, released last week, Pope Benedict shared the Church’s concern for those suffering from mental illness. He noted that one-fifth of the world population suffers some form of mental illness and described this prevalence “a real and authentic social-health care emergency.”
Archbishop Philip Wilson of Adelaide described the three-day gathering as an opportunity “to engage and experience the needs of those who are most vulnerable in our society and … for those who work in the heath care sector to reflect on their work and how it can be seen as a continuation of the healing mission of Jesus.”
A one-day conference will include presentations by keynote speaker Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, head the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers, and renowned Australian experts in mental health, such as Ian Hickie, director of the Brain and Mind Institute and Professor of Psychiatry at Sydney University, and Anne Deveson, author and member of the New South Wales Mental Health Review.
The one-day conference will be followed by a workshop with Cardinal Barragan, health care workers, and people interested in health care from across Australia, with the hope of developing recommendations about mental health care. These recommendations will be put to Church and government bodies for action.
Participants will also make visits to the sick, the homeless and the mentally ill. The event will conclude with a mass in St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral, where the sick can receive the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick and a special blessing.