Faith Opens Illness to Life, Pope Says

Address on Eve of World Day of the Sick

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 10, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Illness and even death itself are open to life, when seen through the eyes of faith, John Paul II said on the eve of World Day of the Sick.



"The believer knows he can count on the power of the creator God, the risen Christ and the vivifying Spirit," the Holy Father said today from the window of his study, before praying the Angelus with thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter´s Square.

The observance of World Day of the Sick, which culminates Monday, is focused this year in the Shrine of Our Lady of Health, of Vailankanny, in southern India. The shrine is known as the "Lourdes of the East."

Some 20 million pilgrims visit the shring annually -- more than half of them Hindus and Muslims.

This is why the Holy Father said: "We also entrust to the heavenly protection of the Mother of God, people of the Hindu and other religions, who willingly go to that Christian shrine."

Monday is the 10th World Day of the Sick. The date, chosen by the Pope, recalls the Virgin´s apparitions to Bernadette Soubirous in the Lourdes grotto on Feb. 11, 1854.

When greeting the pilgrims, John Paul II said that the theme of the celebrations this year are Jesus´ words, as recorded in St. John´s Gospel: "That they might have life and have it more abundantly."

"They recall the profound outlook of Christian faith that, even in the experience of sickness and death itself, is always open to life," the Pope emphasized.

"This prospect gives meaning to the commitment of all those who in a multiplicity of ways lovingly care for the sick and the suffering: doctors, nurses, researchers, pharmacists and volunteers," the Bishop of Rome explained.

Lastly, the Holy Father expressed his closeness to all the sick of the world. "Human suffering was assumed by Christ and is an integral part of his mystery of salvation," John Paul II reminded them.

"By uniting himself with faith and love to the passion of Christ, the person who suffers shares in his victorious struggle over evil and death, as the testimony of the saints demonstrates," the Pope concluded.

John Paul II will be spiritually united to the celebrations in the Indian shrine on Monday afternoon by meeting sick pilgrims, health-care workers and volunteer associations in St. Peter´s Basilica.