* * *
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
1. Tomorrow is the liturgical feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Lourdes. A powerful beacon of hope was lit in the little Pyrenean city, particularly for those suffering in body and spirit, when on Feb. 11, 1854, Our Lady appeared to St. Bernadette in the Massabielle cave, requesting that it become a place of pilgrimage and prayer.
For 10 years now, this Marian feast has been associated with the observance of the World Day of the Sick, a propitious occasion for the ecclesial community to come close to sick people, invoking Mary´s support for them, who brings comfort and light to all.
This year, the heart of the World Day of the Sick will be Vailankanny, in southern India, where the Shrine of "Our Lady of Health" rises, known as "the Lourdes of the East," and the object of numerous pilgrims. 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.
In spiritual union, a special celebration will be held tomorrow afternoon in St. Peter´s, at the end of which I will have the joy of meeting the sick, health workers, and volunteer associations present in the Vatican basilica.
2. "That they might have life and have it more abundantly" (John 10:10). These words of Jesus, which we read in John´s Gospel, constitute the theme of this year´s World Day of the Sick. They recall the profound outlook of Christian faith that, even in the experience of sickness and death itself, is always open to life. The believer knows he can count on the power of the creator God, the risen Christ and the vivifying Spirit. This prospect gives meaning to the commitment of all those who in a multiplicity of ways lovingly take care of the sick and the suffering: doctors, nurses, researchers, pharmacists and volunteers. I wish to express my most cordial appreciation to all these servers of life, among whom are numerous consecrated persons.
3. I reserve a very special remembrance for all the beloved sick who are in all parts of the world. I assure each one of my spiritual closeness, reminding them that human suffering was assumed by Christ and is an integral part of his mystery of salvation: "salvificus dolor." 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.
Let us pray that the Virgin Mary, Health of the Sick, will assist with her protection those who suffer in body and spirit, and sustain all those who lovingly take care of them.
[Translation by ZENIT]