The World Day of the Sick is a feast day of the Roman Catholic Church which was instituted on May 13, 1992 by Pope John Paul II. Beginning on February 12, 1993, it is celebrated every year on the commemoration of Our Lady of Lourdes, for all believers seeks to be “a special time of prayer and sharing, of offering one’s suffering”.
Pope John Paul II had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease as early as 1991, an illness which was only disclosed later, and it is significant that he decided to create a World Day of the Sick only one year after his diagnosis. The Pope had written a great deal on the topic ofsuffering and believed that it was very much a salvific and redeeming process through Christ, as he indicated in his apostolic letter Salvifici Doloris.
The feast of Lourdes was chosen because many pilgrims and visitors to Lourdes have reportedly be healed by intercerssions of the Blessed Virgin. The pontiff was also fond of the sanctuary of Harissa in Lebanon.
In his Message for the celebration the Holy Father points out that this coincidence will give occasion “to thank God for the ground covered so far in the sector of the pastoral care of health”. Benedict XVI then expresses the hope that “this event will be an opportunity to give a more generous apostolic impetus to the service of the sick and of those who look after them”.
“With the annual World Day of the Sick, the Church intends to carry out a far-reaching operation, raising the ecclesial community’s awareness to the importance of pastoral service in the vast world of health care.”
The service of the health care workers follows and stems from that of Christ: “This service is an integral part of the Church’s role since it is engraved in Christ’s saving mission itself. He, the divine Doctor, “went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed by the devil” (Acts 10: 38)”.
The Pope expresses his heartfelt thanks toward all health care workers: “I warmly thank those who, every day, “serve the sick and the suffering”, so that “the apostolate of God’s mercy may ever more effectively respond to people’s expectations and needs” (cf. John Paul II, Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus, Art. 152).”
“Lastly,” he adds in conclusion, “I address you, dear sick people and I ask you to pray and to offer your suffering up for priests, so that they may continue to be faithful to their vocation and that their ministry may be rich in spiritual fruits for the benefit of the whole Church.
Read the entire text of the Message here