Pope’s Message for 32nd World Day of the SickSunday 11th February 2024
Today, on the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, we mark World Day of the Sick.
Each year, World Day of the Sick presents us with an invitation to remember all those who are unwell, to give thanks for the diligent work of carers and healthcare professionals, and to consider how our Christian faith calls us to respond.
To mark this year’s World Day of the Sick, Pope Francis has shared a message to Catholics across the globe, inviting us to reflect on the words “It is not good for man to live alone” (Gen 2:18).
He said: “From the beginning, God, who is love, created us for communion and endowed us with the innate capacity to enter into relationship with others. Our lives, reflecting in the image of The Trinity, are meant to attain fulfilment through a network of relationships, friendships, and love, both given and received. We were created to be together, not alone. Precisely because this project of communion is so deeply rooted in the human heart, we see the experience of abandonment and solitude as something frightening, painful, and even inhuman. This is all the more the case at times of vulnerability, uncertainty, and insecurity, cause often by the onset of a serious illness”.
Pope Francis went on to reflect on all those who battle illness and adversity on their own, thinking particularly of those who suffered and died without the comfort of their families during the Covid-19 pandemic and the healthcare professionals who cared for them – as well as those who are left isolated through that “most terrible of social diseases”: war.
A Throwaway Culture
But the pope warns that the isolation of the sick is not just collateral damage in times of headline-hitting crises, but – instead – it points to another type of crisis that is just as prevalent in times of peace and prosperity.
He explains: “It needs to be said that even in countries that enjoy peace and greater resources, old age and sickness are frequently experienced in solitude and, at times, even abandonment.
“This grim reality is mainly a consequence of the culture of individualism that exalts productivity at all costs, cultivates the myth of efficiency, and proves indifferent, even callous, when individuals no longer have the strength needed to keep pace.”
Pope Francis went on to describe a “throwaway culture” that has led to this great social and political crisis where the dignity of the human person and their needs are lost and neglected in the day-to-day, and the value of human closeness is sacrificed to the fast-paced nature of the modern world.
In the face of this crisis, Pope Francis said: “Brothers and sisters, the first form of care needed in any illness is compassionate and loving closeness. To care for the sick thus means, above all, to care for their relationships, all of them: with God, with others – family members, friends, healthcare workers -, with creation and with themselves.
“Can this be done? Yes, it can be done and all of us are called to ensure that happens. Let us look to the icon of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 25-37), to his ability to slow down and draw near to another person, to the tender love with which he care for the wounds of a suffering brother.”
“It is not good for man to be alone”
Reminding us once again of that line in Genesis – “it is not good for man to be alone!” – Pope Francis reminds us of that each and every person was made for love, and that the very purpose of human life is to live in fraternity and communion with one another.
As such, he writes: “To those of you who experience illness, whether temporary or chronic, I would say this: Do not be ashamed of your longing for closeness and tenderness! Do not conceal it, and never think that you are a burden on others. The condition of the sick urges all of us to step back from the hectic pace of our lives in order to rediscover ourselves.”
Today, Pope Francis invites each one of us to “adopt the compassion-filled gaze of Jesus” in our care and attention to those who suffer and are alone, and to allow the grace of Christ help us grow a culture of tenderness and compassion.
He said: “The sick and the vulnerable are at the heart of the Church; they must also be at the heart of our human concern and pastoral attention. May we never forget this!
“And let us comment ourselves to Mary Most Holy, Health of the Sick, that she may intercede for us and help us to be artisans of closeness and fraternal relationships.”
To read the Pope’s message in full, please click here.
You can also find out more about our diocesan pilgrimage to Lourdes in our centenary year by clicking here.