It is a great act of love to take care of those who suffer, said Pope John Paul II today in his general audience on the occasion of the World Day of the Sick.
For Christians today, suffering is also a gift for the Church and the world, he said.
“The World Day of the Sick constitutes a strong call to rediscover the important presence of the suffering in the Christian community and to value always their precious contribution,” said the 83-year-old ailing pontiff.
“From a simply human perspective, pain and sickness can appear as absurd realities,” he said. “However, if one allows oneself to be illuminated by the light of the Gospel, one can grasp its profound salvific significance.”
In his address in the Paul VI Auditorium, the Pope recalled the deep connection between the sick and today’s Marian feast, Our Lady of Lourdes. The renowned Marian sanctuary of Lourdes in France continues to attract crowds of pilgrims from around the world, many among them who are sick, he said.
The Pope said Lourdes stands out especially since this year marks the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8, 1854. It was in Lourdes, four years later, that the Virgin Mary appeared to Bernadette Soubirous as the Immaculate Conception.
The Pope expressed his affection for those who are suffering and affirmed the significance of their contribution to the world.
“I turn now to the many people who experience the weight of suffering in body and in spirit. To each of them, I renew the expressions of my affection and my spiritual closeness,” he said.
“At the same time, I would like to call to mind that human existence is always a gift of God, even when it is marked by physical suffering of all sorts; it is a valuable gift for the Church and for the world.
“Certainly, one who suffers must never be left alone,” said the pontiff, adding his deep appreciation of those who, “with simplicity and a spirit of service” minister to the sick and seek to alleviate their suffering and infirmities.
“I think, in a special way, of health workers, doctors, nurses, scientists and researchers, as well as hospital chaplains and volunteers,” he said. “It is a great act of love to take care of those who suffer!”
He concluded the general audience with a prayer to Our Lady of Lourdes: "Be the support of all those, who each day alleviate the pain of their brothers and sisters. And help all people grow in the knowledge of Christ, who with his death and resurrection, defeated the power of evil and death.”