| JUBILEE FOR SICK REACHES DRAMATIC CONCLUSION
|| VATICAN (CWNews.com) -- The Jubilee celebration for the sick reached its culmination at
the Vatican on February 11-- the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes-- as Pope John Paul II
celebrated Mass in St. Peter's Square for a congregation of thousands of people suffering from
various forms of illness.
"My dear suffering brothers and sisters, we owe you a debt. The Church owes you this debt,
and the Pope as well. Pray for us!" the Pope said in his remarks at the conclusion of the
Eucharistic celebration. The Holy Father was doing his best to emphasize a message that he has
delivered frequently during his pontificate: that the sufferings of the sick, along with their prayers,
are a powerful source of grace for the universal Church. On the day after his election to Peter's
throne, the Pope visited the Gemelli Hospital in Rome, to ask a friend (Cardinal Andrej Deskur)
to offer up his sufferings for the success of the pontificate.
More than 1,200 volunteers were on hand to assist the members of the unusual congregation for
this papal Mass. There were at least 2,400 wheelchairs in use in St. Peter's Square, and 280
specially equipped buses were used to shuttle the faithful from their hotels to the Vatican and
back. Special first-aid stations had been set up for the occasion, and portable heaters were
installed around the altars in case of cold weather. (As it happens, the weather was mild
throughout the day, and the heaters were not needed.)
"You are welcome here," the Pope said in his homily during the Mass. "You are close to the
heart of Peter's successor, who feels your worries and your pains as his own." He continued, in
a firm voice: "Some of you have been confined on a bed of suffering for years. I pray to God
that this meeting and this day will be a source of physical and spiritual comfort for such people."
He added that even healthy people should recognize and contemplate on "the redemptive value
of suffering." The Pope pointed out that the Church, "following the example of Christ," pays
particular attention to those who suffer from physical illness, and that one of the seven
sacraments is dedicated specifically to their pastoral needs. During the day's ceremony he
anointed 10 people with Sacrament of the Sick.
The day's celebration was a logistical tour-de-force for organizers who were led by the Italian
group UNITALSI, which arranged transportation for 15,000 people in special trains and buses
from around Italy and France.