On Thursday, February 11, at the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, the mass of the 24th World Day of the Sick (WDS) took place. For the occasion, the president of the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Health Mission, Monsignor Zygmunt Zimowski was sent by the Holy Father to Nazareth. “Jesus healed many sick and infirm in Galilee! His closeness to them is an example to us. It, thus, made sense to celebrate the WDS in Nazareth,” he explained.
The theme this year was was taken from the Gospel story of the wedding at Cana: Confiding in the merciful Christ like Mary: “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5). It highlights both on the Virgin’s intercession and God’s mercy, which Pope Francis has placed emphasis upon during this Year of Mercy.
The mass was presided over by Monsignor Zimowski, and it was celebrated in Latin, Italian and Arabic. The congregation was composed mainly of local Christians, and the sick were given a place of honor. After the homily, the bishops dispersed into the assembly so as to administer the sacrament of the sick. Heralds of the God the Father’s tenderness they traced a cross on the forehead and hands of each person, giving them each a special level of attention. Sacristains bustled around them, bringing them oil or cotton. Young or old, sickness affects people without distinction, but Christ does not forget anyone. “Saint Pope John Paul II created the World Day of the Sick in 1992 to raise awareness of the suffering, who are close to the heart of Christ, who suffered in order to redeem us,” stated Monsignor Zimowski. “This day should bring hope to the sick. And it is also a message for doctors and nurses, whose mission is of utmost importance for the most vulnerable.”
Linda, who lives in Nazareth and is parishioner at the Basilica of the Annunciation said: “It was important for me to attend mass, first of all because it allowed us to connect with the universal Church. I hope this will remind the sick that they are not alone in their suffering because God is with them. Caregivers and medical staff were also in our prayers that God may inspire their approach toward the sick.”
A week-long pilgrimage was organized by the Holy See and the Assembly of Catholic Priests of the Holy Land. In addition to Monsignor Zimowski, several bishops also took part in the pilgrimage, including the Syrian Catholic Archbishop of Mosul, Monsignor Yohanna Petros Moshe. They, most notably, went to Bethlehem, Ramallah and Jerusalem. Having come for this particular celebration, they took the opportunity to visit the holy places and to visit the sick and the Catholics of the Holy Land, witnessing different aspects of life in the Holy Land.
They were accompanied by a group of Spanish pilgrims, members of the parishioner’s association called Hospitalidad Jesús de Nazaret. The group included patients and their caregivers. “I thought it would have been impossible for me to come to the Holy Land in a wheelchair,” said Araceli, “but we made it! Even the sick can go on pilgrimage. We must tell the world so that others may follow suit,” she added. “This was very important to me because I was able to help others by praying for them in the places where Jesus lived, whereas usually it is others who provide assistance to me in my everyday life.”
And echoing Mother Teresa’s upcoming canonization, and her actions with the suffering, Monsignor Zimowski announced at the end of the mass that the next World Day of the Sick will be held in India in 2019.