Cardinal Charles Bo of Myanmar, the president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC), has issued a message for the special celebration of World Day of the Sick in Kolkata, the city of St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
The Asian bishops’ president is urging believers in the continent to continue upholding the sacred duty and tradition of caring and respecting the elderly, the infirm and the helpless, saying it is a barometer of society’s health.
Cardinal Charles Bo, the president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC), made the exhortation in a message he released on Sunday in view of the upcoming international celebration of the Catholic Church’s World Day of the Sick.
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 act of human suffering.
Kolkata – city of Mother Teresa
Each year, the day is marked in a special way in a place chosen by the Pope who issues a message for the occasion. The 27th World Day of the Sick will be celebrated in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), the city of St. Mother Teresa.
In his message for this year’s observance, Pope Francis urges believers to promote a culture of generosity, noting that the joy of generous giving is a barometer of the health of a Christian.
The theme of this year’s World Day of the Sick has as its theme, “You received without payment; give without payment”. (Mt 10:8).
Recalling Kolkata as the “karma bhumi” (workplace) of St.Teresa of Calcutta, Card. Bo says that this year’s theme was the mantra that Jesus gave His disciples “before sending them forth to spread the good news of the kingdom of God.”
Caring for sick, infirm – a sacred duty
“Allow me to remind myself and encourage all believers to uphold the traditional values embedded in the psyche of our varied ethnic groups in this vast Asian continent which considers caring for the elderly and infirm as a sacred duty of respect and devotion,” explains the cardinal, the Archbishop of Yangon, Myanmar.
“Our traditional customs of reaching out in solidarity to those in need especially those who are sick, helpless or fall victims to accidents of calamitous emergencies,” he says, “must continue to be embraced as a culture of generosity – a barometer denoting societal health.”
Card. Bo, who assumed his leadership of the FABC on Jan. 1, holds Mary as a model, saying she set out to be at the side of her cousin Elizabeth in her hour of need. He wishes that she be an inspiration and example to us “to reach out as visible signs of God’s love for the poor and the sick.”
He wishes that Mother Teresa, who showed what it means “give till it hurts”, also be an inspiration and model in giving our time and talents in caring for the sick.
The 70-year old cardinal expressed his gratitude and encouragement to volunteers and associations who help the sick, and all those organize campaigns for blood, tissue and organ donation.
Pope Francis on Dec. 11 appointed Bangladeshi Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario as his envoy to the special celebration of the World Day of the Sick in Kolkata.
This year’s World Day of the Sick will be a 3-day event, starting in Kolkata on February 9 and will culminate on February 11 at the historical Marian Shrine at Bandel on the banks of the Hooghly River some 60 kms north of Kolkata.
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 all over the world with a special celebration in a particular place each year.
According to Cardinal Peter Turkson, the Prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, that organizes the World Day of the Sick, Kolkata was chosen as a venue mainly “in light of the experience of St. Teresa of Calcutta”.
This is only the second time a place in India has been chosen. The first was Vailankanni in 2003. – Robin Gomes, Vatican News, 27Jan2019