At today’s Angelus, XXXII World Day of the Sick, Francis recalled those who are not guaranteed the “right to care”, and therefore “to life”. A special thought was addressed to people living in “extreme poverty” and in war territories, especially in Myanmar, Ukraine, Palestine and Israel. The homage was paid to María Antonia de San José, the first Argentine saint canonised this morning.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – On this Sunday, when the 32nd World Day of the Sick is being celebrated in commemoration of the memory of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Lourdes, Pope Francis said at the end of the recitation of the Angelus that “we cannot remain silent about the fact that there are so many people today who are denied the right to care, and therefore the right to life”.
The world day is an opportunity to devote attention especially to those who live “in extreme poverty” and to “war territories”. “There, fundamental human rights are violated every day. It is intolerable!” added Bergoglio, asking those listening to pray for Myanmar. But also for all the peoples of the world ‘tormented by war’, especially those of Ukraine, Palestine and Israel.
Regarding the World Day of the Sick – established in 1993 by Saint John Paul II – the Pontiff recalled that this year “draws attention to the importance of relationships in illness”. “It is not good for man to be alone” (Gen 2:18) is in fact the chosen theme, developed in the Holy Father’s message released on 10 January entitled “Care for the sick by caring for relationships”.
“The first thing we need when we are sick is the closeness of loved ones, of health care workers; and in our hearts, the closeness of God,” Francis said today, looking out the window of the Apostolic Palace, to a St. Peter’s Square packed with faithful and pilgrims who came to the Vatican despite the rain. “We are all called to be close to those who suffer, to visit the sick, as Jesus teaches us in the Gospel,” he continued.
He then expressed his closeness and that of the Church to the sick, but also to the “most fragile”. In approaching illness, Bergoglio asked not to forget “God’s style”, characterised by “closeness, compassion and tenderness”.
At the beginning of the speech that followed the recitation of the Marian prayer, Pope Francis asked for applause for the Argentinean María Antonia de Paz y Figueroa (1730-1799), known as ‘Mama Antula’, whose canonisation ceremony he presided over in St Peter’s Basilica this morning.
She is the first saint from the country where Bergoglio was born and raised. Before the ceremony, the Pope met with Argentine President Javier Milei, who led the delegation that came to Rome from Buenos Aires to attend the historic event.
In the commentary on the Gospel of the day (Mk 1:40-45) that preceded the Angelus, the Holy Father spoke of Jesus’ style of working with those who suffer, which emerges from the passage of the evangelist Mark: “few words and concrete deeds”. In fact, the passage tells of the encounter between Jesus and a leper, who begs him on his knees, asking him to cleanse him.
“I am willing, be cleansed!” (v. 41) are the words Jesus addresses to the sick man, defined by the Pope as “a very simple phrase, which he immediately puts into practice”. This is followed by healing, with the disappearance of the leprosy. In the Gospel, Jesus behaves in the same way with all the suffering people he meets.
“He says little and words are promptly followed by actions,” Francis explained, “He does not linger in speeches or interrogations […]. Rather, he shows the delicate modesty of one who listens attentively and acts with solicitude, preferably without being conspicuous’. The one described is a “wonderful way of loving”, Bergoglio said, suggesting that we “imagine it” and “assimilate it”.
The concreteness that comes from the simplicity of making oneself available, accompanied by the sobriety of words, is important especially in today’s world, “in which an evanescent virtuality of relationships seems to be making its way more and more,” he added.
Here, love is first and foremost pragmatism seasoned with “donated time and space”. “It cannot be reduced to beautiful words, images on a screen, selfies of a moment or hasty messaging,” the Pope commented, adding that the latter are “useful tools”, but “cannot replace concrete presence”.
Starting from these suggestions, Francis asked the connected faithful to ask themselves whether they possess the ability to listen to people, and whether they make themselves available “to their good requests”.
Or, on the contrary, if they make excuses or hide “behind abstract and useless words”. And again, he suggested asking: “When was the last time I went to visit a lonely or sick person?” Pope Francis concluded his commentary by invoking the help of Mary, “solicitous in caring”, to encourage “being ready and concrete in love”.