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Pope Francis on Our Lady of Lourdes feast: The Church is close to all who are sick or frail

Pope Francis urged people to bring God’s love to the sick and suffering through “concrete actions” in his Angelus address on the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.

Speaking on a rainy Sunday in Rome from the window of the Apostolic Palace to the crowd huddled under umbrellas below, the pope said that he wanted to express the closeness “of the entire Church to all those who are sick or frail.”

“Today, on the memorial of the Blessed Virgin of Lourdes, we celebrate World Day of the Sick, which this year draws attention to the importance of relationships in sickness,” Pope Francis said on Feb. 11.

“We are all required to be a neighbor to those who suffer, to visit the sick as Jesus teaches us in the Gospel,” he added.

In his Angelus address, the pope asked people to reflect on what they have done to help the sick and the suffering: “In real terms, when was the last time I went to visit someone alone or sick?”

“Or when was the last time I changed my plans to meet the needs of someone who asked me for help?” he asked.

The Catholic Church marks the World Day of the Sick each year on Feb. 11, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes in southwestern France is associated with the sick because of the presence of a miraculous spring from which many people have obtained physical healing.

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John Paul II established the World Day of the Sick in 1992 as “a special time of prayer and sharing, of offering one’s suffering for the good of the Church and of reminding everyone to see in his sick brother or sister the face of Christ who, by suffering, dying and rising, achieved the salvation of mankind.”

Reflecting on Sunday’s Gospel, Pope Francis said that Jesus’ healing of a leper in the first chapter of the Gospel of Mark is an example of “Jesus’ style” of backing up his words with “concrete deeds.”

“Love needs tangibility. Love needs presence and encounter. It needs to be given time and space,” Pope Francis said.

The pope underlined that love cannot be reduced to “to beautiful words, images on a screen, momentary selfies, or hasty messages.”

He said that when people are sick, the first thing that they need — in addition to the attention of healthcare professionals — is the closeness of their loved ones.

“May Mary, solicitous in care, help us to be ready and tangible in love,” Francis said.

Pope Francis said that especially on the World Day of the Sick “we cannot remain silent about the fact that there are many people today to whom the right to care, and thus the right to life, is denied.”

“I am thinking of those who live in extreme poverty, but I am also thinking of those who live in war zones where fundamental human rights are violated there every day. It is intolerable,” he said.

“Let us pray for battered Ukraine, for Palestine and Israel. Let us pray for Myanmar and for all peoples who are tormented by war.”

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