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World Day of the Sick

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World Day of the Sick is a Catholic Church awareness day, or observance, on February 11, aimed at praying and sharing, sacrificing one’s suffering for the welfare of the church, and urging everyone to see the face of Christ in his or her ailing brother or sister. The day falls on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, and it is an important occasion for individuals in the Catholic health ministry to reflect on caring for those who are sick as well as those who care for them.

 

HISTORY OF WORLD DAY OF THE SICK

In 1992, Pope John Paul II established the day to urge people to pray for individuals who are ill and their caretakers. The pope showed signs of Parkinson’s disease in 1991, but it wasn’t verified until 2001, therefore, it’s notable that he opted to establish the World Day of the Sick barely a year after his diagnosis. In his apostolic letter “Salvifici Doloris”, the pope wrote extensively on the subject of suffering and considered that it has always been a redeeming process through Christ.

On February 11, 1993, the first World Day of the Sick was observed. Our Lady of Lourdes, a term referring to the Virgin Mary in honor of apparitions alleged to have been seen in and around Lourdes, France, by a little girl named Bernadette Soubirous, is also celebrated on February 11. Bernadette was recognized as a saint by the Catholic Church a few years later.

Because numerous pilgrims and tourists to Lourdes, France, claimed to have been healed at the Marian Sanctuary through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, he chose the commemoration of Our Lady of Lourdes as the day of the observance. The pope also paid homage to the Harissa sanctuary in Lebanon.

The World Day of the Sick had a particular significance in 2005 because the ailing pope died on April 2 of that year. As he lay dying in St. Peter’s Square in Rome, a large crowd assembled to pray for him.

On this day in 2013, Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation, citing his poor health as the cause for his departure. On World Day of the Sick, people all across the world take the opportunity to pray for the sick and those who labor tirelessly to alleviate their pain. Faith-based organizations commemorate this day by providing medicines, food, and spiritual guidance to the sick.