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Dear Brothers and Sisters!
1. Next Wednesday, February 11, liturgical memorial of the Blessed Virgin of Lourdes, the World Day of the Sick will be held. The principal events will take place in Lourdes itself, where Mary Most Holy appeared to St. Bernadette Soubirous, introducing herself as "the Immaculate Conception." This year, moreover, is the 150th anniversary of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, proclaimed by my venerated predecessor, Blessed Pius IX, whose feast we celebrated yesterday.
2. The close link is noted that exists between Our Lady of Lourdes and the world of suffering and illness. In the shrine that arises near the grotto of Massabielle, the sick are always the protagonists and, in the course of the years, Lourdes has become a genuine bastion of life and hope. How could it be otherwise? The Immaculate Conception of Mary is, in fact, the first fruit of the redemption accomplished by Christ and the pledge of his victory over evil. That spring of water gushing from the earth, which the Virgin invited Bernadette to drink, brings to mind the power of the Spirit of Christ, which heals man completely and gives him eternal life.
3. May Our Lady watch over all those who will take part in the events planned at Lourdes in the next few days: the meetings on health care ministry in the countries of Europe and on the special relation between the Immaculate Virgin and the sick. Above all, let us commend to the Holy Virgin the solemn Eucharistic celebration which will be presided over by my special envoy, Cardinal Lozano Barragán, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers.
[Translation by ZENIT]