By Robin Gomes
The 27th World Day of the Sick of the Catholic Church is being celebrated on Monday in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), the capital of West Bengal state.
The annual day was instituted by St. John Paul II on 13 May 1992, designating its celebration to the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, February 11 each year. The purpose is to draw attention to the sick and their caregivers and the redemptive nature of human suffering.
The first World Day of the Sick was marked in 1993 at the shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in southern France, one of the world’s most famous Marian shrines.
Since then, the day has been observed each year all over the world with a special celebration in a particular place. The Holy Father issues a message each year on a particular theme.
Pope's envoy - Card. Patrick D’Rozario
Pope Francis on Dec. 11 appointed Bangladeshi Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario as his envoy to the 2019 World Day of the Sick in Kolkata, which has as its theme, “You received without payment; give without payment” (Mt 10:8).
In an interview to Vatican News, Card. D’Rozario expresses gratitude to Pope Francis for selecting him for the special Church event in Kolkata, a 3-day event which will culminate on Feb. 11.
Communion with the sick
In his appointment, the Archbishop of Dhaka feels a great sense of communion among the Bengali-speaking people on either side of divided Bengal.
In a personal letter to the cardinal, he says, the Holy Father appreciated his “spirit of communion” with the people, especially the poor. The cardinal notes that the Pope in his message for the World Day of the Sick also stresses on communion, which entails giving generously to others because we have received freely from the Lord. We should give ourselves to people especially those most in need.
In this regard, the cardinal says Kolkata, the “City of Joy” will celebrate the joy of communion with the sick people together with St. Teresa of Calcutta who is the “icon of God’s compassion, love, generosity and service” to the poor and the infirm. The cardinal is longing to experience this communion together with Mother Teresa.
Kolkata – today’s Galilee
The 75-year old cardinal points out that what Mother Teresa was to Kolkata, and still is today, reflects what Jesus was to the Galilee and to the people of His time. Whatever was happening in Galilee was spreading all over the world at the time of Jesus. In the same way Kolkata, the “Galilee of modern times”, is spreading the same message of Jesus.
Card. D’Rozario says the Feb. 9-11 World Day of the Sick will include reflections, prayers and communicating with others and showing mercy and compassion to the poor and the neediest.
Among those addressing the World Day of the Sick is Card. Peter Turkson, Prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. The 3 days include programmes such as reflections, discussions, visits to homes for the sick treating, anointing of the sick.
It will culminate with a solemn Holy Mass with the anointing of the sick at Bandel Church, the popular Marian shrine dedicated to the Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, some 55 km north of Kolkata.
This is the second time that the international celebration of the World Day of the Sick is taking place in India. The first was in Velankanni, in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, in 2003.
Nineteen bishops’ conferences and 8 associate members of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) are sending their delegation to Kolkata for the observance.