Celebration of the XXIV World Day of the Sick in Nazareth
NAZARETH – Three years ago, Pope Benedict chose Nazareth for the main celebration of the World Day of the Sick. The event took place on Thursday, February 11, 2016 in the Basilica of the Annunciation. Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, President of the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers, celebrated Mass with the participation of Bishops, about 70 priests, the faithful, pilgrims and the sick from the entire world.
It was in 1993 that Pope John Paul II proclaimed February 11 as the World Day of the Sick. This declaration was intended as a means for the faithful to raise their prayers and care for those who suffer. Likewise on this day we celebrate the liturgical memorial of the Blessed Virgin of Lourdes, the place where 162 years ago, the Virgin Mary appeared to Saint Bernadette. In his message for the second World Day of the Sick, Pope John Paul II addressed caregivers: “Like the Good Samaritan, you are close to and serve the sick and suffering, respecting – first of all, and always – their dignity as persons, and with the eyes of faith, recognizing the presence of the suffering Jesus in them.”
Archbishop Zimowski spoke about five important themes in his homily: the Vocation that is totally singular, the role of servants in the culture of encounter and peace, mercy for those who are God-fearing, the faith and the beatitude of Mary and Joseph and fear of God is a gift of the Holy Spirit. He pointed out that every one of us has a calling, in one form or another. This is a calling to go and help those who suffer: “All of us, in a certain sense, are called”, he continued, “man suffers in various places; at times he ‘suffers terribly’ and calls another man. He needs his help. He needs his presence…” “The important thing is to go, to be at the side of the man who suffers. Perhaps, more than healing, he needs the presence of a man, of a human heart full of mercy, of human solidarity.”
During the solemn Mass attended by over 1,100 people, the faithful were able to reflect on certain passages in the life of the Virgin Mary, like the wedding in Cana, where She asked the servants to listen to Jesus and obey what He tells them. Likewise, the faithful were invited to think of the moment when She said the “Yes” that changed the course of history.
Then the Anointing of the Sick was administered to about 70 people on wheelchairs in addition to 225 of the sick coming from around the world, making it the most solemn and awaited part of the day.
Mass was animated by the chanting of the Magnificat, which is Mary’s response to the call of God “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). A special hymn created by Rabab Zeytoun and Louayy Zaher was also performed in the celebrations.
The Mass was attended by His Beatitude Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop George Bacouni of the Melkite Greek Catholic Archeparchy of Akka, Bishop Giacinto Boulos Marcuzzo, Patriarchal Vicar in Israel and approximately 70 priests.
At the end of the Mass Archbishop Zimowski read the message of Pope Francis for the World Day of the Sick and gave his blessing. Afterwards, the delegation visited Center of Mary of Nazareth, where Vespers was prayed.
Pastoral visits to Christian organizations in Nazareth
As part of the World Day of the Sick program, pastoral visits were made to Christian hospitals, nursing homes, centers for disabled people and schools in Nazareth. The Pontifical Delegation was divided into three groups that visited the following organizations:
The Saint Vincent de Paul of Nazareth Hospital where one group had the opportunity to visit various departments especially the maternity section. They were able to get a glimpse of the history, the expectations and problems that face the hospital and 20 people received the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.
Another group visited the Holy Family Hospital in Nazareth entrusted to the Brothers Hospitallers Order (Fatebenefratelli) and Sisters of Maria Bambina. They also were briefed about the history of the hospital, the contribution it makes and the pastoral plan it follows to operate. The group visited the maternity department of the hospital as well.
Furthermore the groups visited the Nazareth English Hospital, St. Francis Home for Elderly, Holy Family for Special Education, Holy Family Hospital and Saint Anne Institute, educational support for homeless children.