Bishop Michael Router, chair of the Council for Healthcare of the Irish Episcopal Conference, has welcomed Pope Francis’ message for the World Day of the Sick, which is celebrated on 11 February, the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. The World Day of the Sick is an initiative which was started by Pope Saint John Paul II in 1992. It is a time to pause and be prayerfully in solidarity with those who are sick and with all who care for the sick.
Bishop Router said, “This year marks the 30th anniversary of the institution of World Day of the Sick by Pope Saint John Paul II: a day that encourages everyone to be attentive to those who are suffering and to support those who care for them. Since its institution, much progress has been made medically and scientifically. Yet, we are reminded by Pope Francis that we still have much to do to ensure that those who are poor or marginalised receive the health care and pastoral care that they need.
“The theme for this year’s World Day of the Sick is “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful”. Pope Francis tells us that “Mercy is God’s name par excellence”. It is not something fleeting or sentimental but ever-present and active, combining strength and tenderness. In the Gospels we see Jesus displaying great concern and mercy for the sick. He made proclaiming the Gospel and healing the sick central to the mission of his disciples. People who are sick or in pain are isolated from others and that is why Jesus made healing and pastoral outreach to the sick such an important part of the Christian life.”
Bishop Router continued, “Pope Francis says that Jesus’ invitation to be merciful like the Father has particular implications for healthcare workers. Their service to the sick goes beyond purely professional competence. It becomes a mission assigning their work a special dignity. He encourages healthcare workers to see the person beyond the disease and to listen to them because “even when healing is not possible, care can always be given”.
“The instruction of Jesus to his disciples to heal the sick has led the Christian community to establish many hospitals, dispensaries and care homes, where treatment and pastoral care can be given to those who are sick, particularly the poor and the socially excluded. These have been the means by which Christian charity has become visible and credible. In this context Pope Francis reaffirms the importance of Catholic Healthcare institutions. He outlines that “they are a precious treasure to be protected and preserved; their presence has distinguished the history of the Church, showing her closeness to the sick and the poor, and to situations overlooked by others”. Francis also adds that even in developed countries the presence of Catholic Healthcare facilities is a blessing because they offer the gift of charity, focus on the sick and their families, and protect and care for all life from its beginning to its natural end.
“Pope Francis reminds us that the pastoral care of the sick is not just the task of a few designated ministers but the task of every baptised person. He finishes his message by entrusting all the sick and their families to the intercession of Mary, Health of the Infirm, and by offering his prayer for healthcare workers everywhere.”
A dedicated feature including the message of Pope Francis and prayers to support chaplains administering to the sick is available on catholicbishops.ie.