By Robin Gomes
The special celebration of the Catholic Church’s World Day of the Sick, Feb. 11, in Kolkata, formerly Calcutta, will be preceded by two days of theological-pastoral reflection and acts of mercy and compassion to the sick and infirm.
Mother Teresa’s city
The eastern Indian city is associated with St. Teresa of Calcutta, or simply Mother Teresa, the Albanian nun who came to Kolkata in 1929 as a young missionary of the Sisters of Loreto of Ireland. There she founded her own Missionaries of Charity order in 1950 for the poor and the abandoned, for which she became famous around the world.
The first two days of
Saturday, Feb. 9, day 1, will be dedicated to a seminar in St. Xavier’s College in which various speakers will address some 150 delegates from around the world, mainly from Asia and the Vatican, and an equal number of local people, Shah told Vatican News.
The 3 days include public events like the Mass at Mother Teresa’s tomb on Saturday, another Mass and the anointing of the sick the following day at St. Xavier’s College grounds and the concluding Mass and the anointing of the sick on the final day, Monday, at the Minor Basilica of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, or Bandel Church, some 55 km north of Kolkata.
Sunday morning, the second day, the delegates will be divided into 3 groups of about 100 each, who will visit 3 care centres in Kolkata – Shanti Dan (Gift of Peace) and Prem Dan (Gift of Love) run by the Missionaries of Charity (MC) of Mother Teresa, and St. Joseph’s Home for the Aged of the Little Sisters of the Poor. The delegates will meet and bless the sick, infirm and the elderly.
Soon after the visits, the national delegations for health care and the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development will meet in St. Xavier’s College.
In the afternoon, there will be public Mass with the sacrament of the anointing of the sick and infirm on the grounds of St. Xavier’s. Around 2000 people and some 150 to 200 sick people from various care centres are expected at this event.
Among the participants in Kolkata’s World Day of the sick is a Vatican delegation of some 6 to 8 members led by Card. Peter Turkson, the Prefect of the Dicastery for Integral Human Development. Some bishops from south-east Asia are there. Many bishops from across India are also there.
Finale – Bandel Church
The World Day of the Sick, Feb. 11, will take place at the Marian shrine of the Basilica of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, popularly known as Bandel Church, some 55 km north of Kolkata. Bangladeshi Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario, Archbishop of Dhaka, the special envoy of Pope Francis to the World Day of the Sick, will lead the concluding Mass and the anointing of the sick, which a little over a thousand people are expected to attend.
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 Christian meaning 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.
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.