Pope Benedict XVI’s message for the World Day of Prayer for the Sick, Monday, 11 February 2013

Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation or retirement from the office of the Bishop of Rome, and he made his announcement on the Feast day of our Lady of Lourdes, which is also the World Day of Prayer for the Sick, in remembrance of the miraculous healing at Lourdes.

Our Pope has given up his office as he is getting older and unable to shoulder much further the burden of the leadership of the Universal Church, and he is getting sick as old people do. Let us commend him to our Lady of Lourdes, and remember him always in our prayers through his retirement.

Here is the message from the Pope for the occasion, released in January 2013 :

(11 FEBRUARY 2013)

“Go and do likewise” (Lk 10:37)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. On 11 February 2013, the liturgical memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, the
Twenty-first World Day of the Sick will be solemnly celebrated at the Marian
Shrine of Altötting. This day represents for the sick, for health care workers, for the
faithful and for all people of goodwill “a privileged time of prayer, of sharing, of
offering one’s sufferings for the good of the Church, and a call for all to recognize
in the features of their suffering brothers and sisters the Holy Face of Christ, who,
by suffering, dying and rising has brought about the salvation of mankind” (JOHN
PAUL II, Letter for the Institution of the World Day of the Sick, 13 May 1992, 3). On this
occasion I feel especially close to you, dear friends, who in health care centres or at
home, are undergoing a time of trial due to illness and suffering. May all of you be
sustained by the comforting words of the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council:
“You are not alone, separated, abandoned or useless. You have been called by
Christ and are his living and transparent image” (Message to the Poor, the Sick and the

2. So as to keep you company on the spiritual pilgrimage that leads us from
Lourdes, a place which symbolizes hope and grace, to the Shrine of Altötting, I
would like to propose for your reflection the exemplary figure of the Good
Samaritan (cf. Lk 10:25-37). The Gospel parable recounted by Saint Luke is part of a
series of scenes and events taken from daily life by which Jesus helps us to
understand the deep love of God for every human being, especially those afflicted
by sickness or pain. With the concluding words of the parable of the Good
Samaritan, “Go and do likewise” (Lk 10:37), the Lord also indicates the attitude that
each of his disciples should have towards others, especially those in need. We need
to draw from the infinite love of God, through an intense relationship with him in
prayer, the strength to live day by day with concrete concern, like that of the Good
Samaritan, for those suffering in body and spirit who ask for our help, whether or
not we know them and however poor they may be. This is true, not only for
pastoral or health care workers, but for everyone, even for the sick themselves, who
can experience this condition from a perspective of faith: “It is not by sidestepping
or fleeing from suffering that we are healed, but rather by our capacity for
accepting it, maturing through it and finding meaning through union with Christ,
who suffered with infinite love” (Spe Salvi, 37).

3. Various Fathers of the Church saw Jesus himself in the Good Samaritan; and
in the man who fell among thieves they saw Adam, our very humanity wounded
and disoriented on account of its sins (cf. ORIGEN, Homily on the Gospel of Luke
XXXIV,1-9; AMBROSE, Commentary on the Gospel of Saint Luke, 71-84; AUGUSTINE,
Sermon 171). Jesus is the Son of God, the one who makes present the Father’s love,
a love which is faithful, eternal and without boundaries. But Jesus is also the one
who sheds the garment of his divinity, who leaves his divine condition to assume
the likeness of men (cf. Phil 2:6-8), drawing near to human suffering, even to the
point of descending into hell, as we recite in the Creed, in order to bring hope and
light. He does not jealously guard his equality with God (cf. Phil 2:6) but, filled
with compassion, he looks into the abyss of human suffering so as to pour out the
oil of consolation and the wine of hope.

4. The Year of Faith which we are celebrating is a fitting occasion for intensifying
the service of charity in our ecclesial communities, so that each one of us can be a
good Samaritan for others, for those close to us. Here I would like to recall the
innumerable figures in the history of the Church who helped the sick to appreciate
the human and spiritual value of their suffering, so that they might serve as an
example and an encouragement. Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy
Face, “an expert in the scientia amoris” (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 42), was able to
experience “in deep union with the Passion of Jesus” the illness that brought her
“to death through great suffering” (Address at General Audience, 6 April 2011). The
Venerable Luigi Novarese, who still lives in the memory of many, throughout his
ministry realized the special importance of praying for and with the sick and
suffering, and he would often accompany them to Marian shrines, especially to the
Grotto of Lourdes. Raoul Follereau, moved by love of neighbour, dedicated his life
to caring for people afflicted by Hansen’s disease, even at the world’s farthest
reaches, promoting, among other initiatives, World Leprosy Day. Blessed Teresa of
Calcutta would always begin her day with an encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist
and then she would go out into the streets, rosary in hand, to find and serve the
Lord in the sick, especially in those “unwanted, unloved, uncared for”. Saint Anna
Schäffer of Mindelstetten, too, was able to unite in an exemplary way her sufferings
to those of Christ: “her sick-bed became her cloister cell and her suffering a
missionary service. Strengthened by daily communion, she became an untiring
intercessor in prayer and a mirror of God’s love for the many who sought her
counsel” (Canonization Homily, 21 October 2012). In the Gospel the Blessed Virgin
Mary stands out as one who follows her suffering Son to the supreme sacrifice on
Golgotha. She does not lose hope in God’s victory over evil, pain and death, and
she knows how to accept in one embrace of faith and love, the Son of God who was
born in the stable of Bethlehem and died on the Cross. Her steadfast trust in the
power of God was illuminated by Christ’s resurrection, which offers hope to the
suffering and renews the certainty of the Lord’s closeness and consolation.

5. Lastly, I would like to offer a word of warm gratitude and encouragement to
Catholic health care institutions and to civil society, to Dioceses and Christian
communities, to religious congregations engaged in the pastoral care of the sick, to
health care workers’ associations and to volunteers. May all realize ever more fully
that “the Church today lives a fundamental aspect of her mission in lovingly and
generously accepting every human being, especially those who are weak and sick”
(Christifideles Laici, 38).
I entrust this Twenty-first World Day of the Sick to the intercession of Our
Lady of Graces, venerated at Altötting, that she may always accompany those who
suffer in their search for comfort and firm hope. May she assist all who are
involved in the apostolate of mercy, so that they may become good Samaritans to
their brothers and sisters afflicted by illness and suffering. To all I impart most
willingly my Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 2 January 2013

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