Bishop Michael Router, Auxilairy Bishop of Armagh and chair of the Bishops’ Council for Healthcare of the Irish Episcopal Conference, has welcomed Pope Francis message’ for the World Day of the Sick which takes place on, 11 February, the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. This year’s theme is ‘Take care of him: compassion is a synodal exercise of healing’ and is inspired by the parable of the good Samaritan in the Gospel of Luke.
Bishop Router said, ‘As a Church we are journeying along a synodal path together and the experience of vulnerability and illness helps us to accompany each other in “closeness, compassion, and tenderness”. Such care for those who are weak and sick is, as Pope Francis says, a “synodal exercise of healing”. For some, illness can bring an experience of isolation and abandonment, which the Pope calls inhumane.
‘Referring to the parable of the Good Samaritan, Pope Francis makes the point that the man who was beaten by the robbers was abandoned when he needed help. Many are, unfortunately, abandoned and left without care and assistance in today’s world and there are frequent assaults on human life and dignity caused by injustice and violence. While respectable members of society pass by the injured man on the road in Jesus’ parable, a despised foreigner is moved by compassion to respond and treat him like a brother.’
‘Pope Francis draws attention to the modern day “pervasive culture of efficiency” which leaves no room for frailty and seeks to marginalise the vulnerable. The Church must stand against such a culture which allows such practices as euthanasia and assisted suicide to be presented as acceptable in a civilised society. The mission of the Church is manifested in acts of care and through such outreach she becomes a true “field hospital” where no one is forgotten or disposable.
‘The Pope also draws our attention to the pressing need for “strategies and resources in order to guarantee each person’s fundamental right to basic and decent healthcare”. The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed “the structural limits of existing public welfare systems”. It seems that the prioritising of economic success over universal care and compassion is leaving more and more people on the margins – among them the homeless, the refugee, the poor, the patient on the hospital trolley, the drug addict.’
Bishop Router concluded, ‘As he brings his message to a close, Pope Francis reiterates the point that the sick are at the centre of the Christian community and that the “Church advances together with them as a sign of a humanity in which everyone is precious and no one should be discarded or left behind”. The Holy Father concludes by entrusting all the sick, their families and carers, healthcare workers and scientific researchers, to the care and intercession of Mary, Health of the Sick.’
The full text of the Pope’s 2023 message can be found here