Pope’s message for World Day of the Sick

Pope Francis offers comfort to a sick person and her caregiver in Chile in January 2018.

“Come to me, all you who labour and are burdened” is the theme of World Day of the Sick, which is observed on Feb. 11, the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. In caring for the sick, Pope Francis encourages healthcare workers to exemplify the human warmth and personalized approach of Christ, the Good Samaritan.

He made the call in his Message for the 28th World Day of the Sick, which the Vatican released Feb. 7. The theme of this year’s observance is taken from Matthew’s Gospel (11:28).

Christ’s words of solidarity, comfort and hope, Pope Francis said, is for the very many simple people, the poor, the sick, sinners, those who are marginalized by the burden of the law and the oppressive social system. The mercy and comforting presence of Jesus embraces people in their entirety, each person in his or her health condition, discarding no one, but rather inviting everyone to share in His life and to experience His tender love.

The pope explained that Jesus does so because He Himself became frail, endured human suffering and received comfort from His Father. Only those who personally experience suffering are able to comfort others.

In addition to therapy and support, the pontiff said, people expect care and attention: “In a word, love”.

“At the side of every sick person, there is also a family, which itself suffers and is in need of support and comfort,” he added.

Those who are sick attract the eyes and heart of Jesus, Pope Francis said.

“Christ did not give us prescriptions, but through His passion, death and resurrection He frees us from the grip of evil,” he said. “The Church desires to become more and more the ‘inn’ of the Good Samaritan, who is Christ (Lk 10:34) — that is, a home where you can encounter His grace, which finds expression in closeness, acceptance and relief.”

The Holy Father acknowledged the key role that healthcare workers, such as physicians, nurses, medical and administrative professionals, assistants and volunteers play in caring for the sick. As men and women with their own frailties and illnesses, these healthcare workers show how true it is that “once Christ’s comfort and rest is received, we are called in turn to become rest and comfort for our brothers and sisters.”

In serving the ill, Pope Francis urges healthcare professionals that “the noun ‘person’ takes priority over the adjective ‘sick’”.   He urges them to “always strive to promote the dignity and life of each person, and reject any compromise in the direction of euthanasia, assisted suicide or suppression of life, even in the case of terminal illness.”

“Let us remember that life is sacred and belongs to God, hence it is inviolable and no one can claim the right to dispose of it freely … Life must be welcomed, protected, respected and served from its beginning to its end: both human reason and faith in God, the author of life, require this,” he said.

“In some cases,”he continued, “conscientious objection becomes a necessary decision if you are to be consistent with your ‘yes’ to life and to the human person, safeguarding of the truest human right, the right to life … When you can no longer provide a cure, you will still be able to provide care and healing, through gestures and procedures that give comfort and relief to the sick.”

Pope Francis laments that during wars and violent conflicts, healthcare professionals and facilities are attacked, and in some areas, political authorities attempt to manipulate medical care for their own advantage, thus restricting the medical profession’s legitimate autonomy.

Noting that many across the world have “no access to medical care because they live in poverty”, Pope Francis urges healthcare institutions and government leaders not to neglect social justice.

The Holy Father concluded his message by thanking all healthcare volunteers who serve the sick, often compensating for structural shortcomings, while reflecting the image of Christ, the Good Samaritan, by their acts of tender love and closeness.

By Robin Gomes