John Paul II Remembered Mother's Suffering

Health Care Dicastery Prepares Its 25th Birthday

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 18, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry says he remembers hearing personally from John Paul II that one of the Pope's only memories of his mother was her suffering.



Polish Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski recalled the Pontiff's words this week during an interview with Vatican Radio about the upcoming 18th World Day of the Sick, celebrated Feb. 11.

The world day will coincide with the 25th anniversary of the Pontifical Council that focuses on pastoral ministry in the field of health care. It will also recall John Paul II's apostolic letter "Salvifici Doloris," published in 1984.

Archbishop Zimowski spoke about a June 9 meeting that discussed preparations for the anniversary. "We should prepare it well," he said, "also remembering the letter 'Salvifici Doloris,' which speaks of the meaning of human life and suffering."

"I think that is the first letter of its type in the history of the Church," he added. "That document came from the heart of John Paul II."

The archbishop said he'll never forget hearing John Paul II say: "I have few memories of my mother, but I do remember that she suffered a lot."

The 60-year-old prelate, who has served as president of the health care dicastery only since April, said he believes John Paul II's mother helped him through suffering and watched over him from heaven, and her absence in his life was the reason for his deep Marian devotion.

All aboard

Regarding the next World Day of the Sick, Archbishop Zimowski announced his intention to "involve the whole world, especially Rome, the diocese of the Holy Father."

He noted plans to invite Benedict XVI to celebrate Mass for the world day at St. Peter's. And he wants to involve "so many people who suffer, so many needy and abandoned people and the people who want to offer their suffering for the Church and for the Holy Father, who is very attacked today in the world -- and these attacks are not just."

Archbishop Zimowski also spoke with L'Osservatore Romano about suffering, saying he believes in its "redemptive value."

He cited another document from John Paul II, "Evangelium Vitae," which affirms that human life comes from God and therefore man cannot dispose of it as he pleases.

"To promote an authentic culture of health," the prelate said in that context, "a correct anthropology must be developed, one that is not reduced to the wellness and the health of the body, but rather asks itself about the human person in his integrity and in his somatic-spiritual unity."