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The Church observes World Day of the Sick (WDS) annually on 11 February, as it coincides with the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. WDS was established by Saint John Paul II in 1992. This year marks the 32nd WDS, and the Holy Father, Pope Francis, has chosen the theme of “It is not good that man should be alone” (cf. Genesis 2: 18). He emphasises the importance of human relationships and caring for the sick in the process of healing and comforting them.

The Holy Father highlights the significance of relationships and how loneliness can lead to suffering and isolation. He believes that we need to show compassion and tender love towards the sick and the dying. They should be at the centre of our human heart and the heart of the Church, making them our top priority. It is inhumane and painful to see terminally ill and sick people abandoned and ostracised by families and society. Therefore, they should be our pastoral concern, and we must treat them with care and respect.

Looking back at the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw that many people – perhaps even including our family members, friends and loved ones - had to face death alone. It was heartbreaking to know that patients were not allowed to have visitors, and healthcare workers like nurses, doctors and support personnel were overwhelmed with their workload in isolation wards. We also cannot ignore the devastating effects of social diseases and war, which often leave the vulnerable in tragic circumstances.

Many times, society tends to neglect and disregard elderly people and the sick, considering them as being of no value. This is not right, and we are responsible for treating them with dignity and respect as God’s creation. These people should not feel ashamed or consider themselves a burden to others. Instead, they should seek help and support from their families and neighbourhoods. We can promote a culture of compassion and tenderness that values every human life, regardless of age or health.

WDS is an annual event that seeks to raise awareness about the significance of providing care and support to individuals who are undergoing chronic or severe health issues. This day is dedicated to recognising the crucial role played by healthcare workers and caregivers in the lives of those who are sick. It is an opportunity to encourage acts of kindness and solidarity towards those who are terminally ill and suffering from various diseases. We are to provide physical, emotional and spiritual support to those who are facing health challenges.

Let us always show tenderness and compassion, and be in solidarity with the sick and dying in their journey towards healing. We continuously pray and make regular visits to patients, and provide them with support, love and care - including the caregivers, nurses and healthcare professionals. May the Blessed Virgin Mary - Health of the Sick - pray for them, and accompany us on our outreach to them.

(An abstract from the message of the Holy Father, Pope Francis, for the 32nd World Day of the Sick)

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