1st Vespers of the XXIVth World Day of the Sick in Nazareth
NAZARETH – On the eve of the official celebration of the World Day of the Sick on February 11 in Nazareth, local parishioners, pilgrims and sick from all over the world met on February 10 in the evening, to pray the Vespers and to join a torchlight procession round the Basilica of the Annunciation.
The ceremony started outside, in front of the door of the Basilica, by welcoming the Pontifical Delegation presided by Achbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, Special Envoy of the Holy Father, Head of the Pontifical Council for Operators in the field of health. A first step which became a tradition each time a Bishop pays a first official visit to the sanctuary.
Parishioners then proceeded to the Upper Church to chant vespers according to Byzantine rite, Ya rabba al-Quat. This moment of prayer was presided by Greek Catholic Archbishop of Akko and the whole Galilaea, George Bacouni. In his homily Archbishop Bacouni came back on the institution by the Church of the Day of the Sick, aimed at acquainting faithful better with the issue of suffering and to shed on professionals a Christian light on their mission: “a mission that is both human and divine, touching on the seamline between life and death, between Man and God”, said the Archbishop.
Bishop Zimowski then took the floor, reminding how the city of Nazareth, first sanctuary of Mary, had been chosen three years before for the celebration of the World Day of the Sick 2016 by Pope Benedict XVI, at the time of celebrating this same Day on 11 February 2013 in Altötting in Germany. The Pontifical Delegate mentioned the importance of the theme of this Day: a phrase taken from the Gospel of John, repeating the words of the Holy Virgin: “Do whatever He tells you” (John 2,5). In the field of health, said Bishop Zimowski, this sentence takes a substantial meaning, as all those involved in caring for the sick are called daily to perform acts of mercy, spiritual and bodily, and to pose acts of love towards anybody, regardless of his condition.
At the conclusion of the Vespers, a torchlight procession, presided by Bishop Marcuzzo, Patriarchal Vicar in Israel, took place round the Basilica. Faithful and sick proceeded prayerfully to the Grotto of the Annunciation in the lower section of the Basilica, chanting in different languages and reciting the rosary. Sick people had come for the occasion from around the country, the whole world, namely from Italy (with UNITALSI) and Spain (Hospitalidad Jesùs de Nazaret).
Bishop Zimowski gave at the end his final blessings to all participants, and the ritual was ended by reciting the prayer written by Pope Francis on the occasion of the Day, “to entrust oneself to Jesus the Merciful, like Mary”.