Nazareth is the place where “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us”, but it’s also the place where Jesus “began his redeeming mission.” In the year of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, the Pope for the first time will solemnly celebrate the twenty fourth World Day of the Sick in the Holy Land, traditionally held on February 11, when the Church celebrates the Blessed Virgin of Lourdes. The theme chosen for the Day – as announced in the Message released past September – is the wedding feast of Cana, which bears a special relationship with the Jubilee: “Entrusting Oneself to the Merciful Jesus like Mary: ‘Do whatever he tells you’” (Jn 2:5) Celebrations for the special Day will be ongoing for a week. The main religious events will be held in Nazareth, in the Annunciation Basilica. However, to “avoid tensions” and enable the sick to overcome walls and architectural barriers, celebrations will be held also in Ramallah and Bethlehem. On February 9 the Pontifical Institute of Notre Dame Center in Jerusalem will host a Conference with the presence of the Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land. On February 10, Ash Wednesday, the procession from the Gethsemane to the Holy Sepulcre; in the afternoon celebration of Vespers in the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth with the “aux flambeaux” procession. This year’s World Day of the Sick will be blessed with the intercession of the two Saints from the Land of Jesus: St. Mawria Alfonsina Danil Gatthas, born in Jerusalem, founder of the Congregation of the Holy Rosary, died in Ain Karem in 1927, and Saint Mariam of Jesus Crucified Baouardy, born in Abellin, Israel, who founded the first Carmelite monastery in Bethlehem, where she died in 1878. Still today her tomb is a pilgrimage destination for Christians and Muslims alike. Both saints were canonized in Rome by Pope Francis on May 17 2015. Partial and plenary indulgence will be also granted to those unable to personally take part in the celebrations because assisting the sick.
The World Day of the Sick can become an opportunity “to foster an encounter with Judaism and Islam and with other noble religious traditions”, to eliminate “every form of closed-mindedness and disrespect”, and drive out “every form of violence and discrimination” as stated by the Pope in the Bull of indiction of the Jubilee.
It was announced by Monsignor Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, who presented the World Day of the Sick in the Vatican Press Office. Thanks to the Office of Papal Charities, on the occasion of the World Day of the Sick will be granted two forms of indulgence, partial and plenary, said Father Augusto Chendi, under-Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Healthcare Workers. Fr Chendi explained that plenary indulgence can be obtained “once a day at the usual conditions” and also “applied in suffrage to the souls of the defunct faithful”, by taking part, from February 7 through 13, in the celebrations held in the Annunciation Basilica in Nazareth or in other places. The faithful assisting the sick “in public hospitals or private healthcare structures”, unable for this reason to attend the religious services, will be granted plenary indulgence along with the sick who “owing to their old age” or to other related reasons cannot take part in the cerimonies. Partial indulgence will be granted to all the faithful who will “address their devout prayers for the sick to the merciful God with a contrite heart.” Finally, plenary indulgence for those who will pass through one of the three Holy Doors of Mercy opened in the Holy Land – in Nazareth, in Bethany and in Gethsemane – and to those who, on February 10, Ash Wednesday, will take part in the procession from the Garden of Gethsemane to the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre or will choose to celebrate Vespers at the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, followed by the Marian “aux flambeaux” procession.
“The month of February is one of the coldest and rainiest months of the year. Architectural and topographic barriers do not facilitate the movement of those with impaired mobility. The yearning of the faithful to participate in the events clashes against walls and barriers, whose transit is allowed only to holders of military permits”.
This led to the decision “to increase the major celebrations” for the World Day of the Sick, that will be celebrated in the Holy Land in Nazareth as well as in Ramallah and Bethlehem, we were told by Fr Pietro Felet, Secretary General of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land and the local contact person for the organization of this year’s World Day of the Sick. “Political tensions suggest avoiding holding events in disputed areas”, he told journalists. ” The Eucharist – he continued – will always be the center of the Day and the time when will be celebrated in a special way a mystery of the life of Jesus: Jesus among his people (Ramallah), Jesus born for us (Bethlehem), Jesus resurrected for us (the Holy Sepulchre), the tragedy of Jesus (Gethsemane), Jesus at the school of Mary (Nazareth), Jesus proclaims the Kingdom (the Beatitudes).’ The anointment of the sick will be administered three times and in three different religious sites by Catholic bishops of the different rites, in Ramallah for Christians living in the northern area of Palestine and in Bethlehem for those in southern Palestine. On Ash Wednesday the penitential act will be celebrated at the Gethsemane with the blessing of the ashes beneath century-old olive trees and the imposition of ashes before passing through the Door of Mercy. The program of the week of the World Day of the Sick, added Father Felet, envisages visits to Charitable Assistance centers and healthcare institutions: the Catholic Church is present in 13 hospitals, with 8 homes for lonely elderly people and 14 institutions for abandoned, orphaned or disabled children.