Pope Benedict XVI is having his message for this year's World Day of the Sick published in Arabic for the very first time. "The Holy Father probably wants to transmit a message on this day to the Syrian people because it's the first time that his message will be published in Arabic," said Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Health Care Workers.
The Pope's message, drafted in several languages, is centered on the Good Samaritan. It is titled "Go and you, too, do the same," and was released at a Jan. 29 press conference in Rome. The World Day of the Sick is observed annually on Feb. 11 for the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, and this year it will be held at the Marian shrine of Altötting in Bavaria, Germany.
"The World Day of the Sick was created by Blessed John Paul II 20 years ago," explained Archbishop Zimowski. "Pope John Paul II, a suffering man among the suffering, wanted for suffering to be seen close to Jesus Christ, who suffered for us for our salvation," the archbishop reflected. "He wanted that God's people become more sensitive to the sick and the suffering and that those suffering find a deeper meaning to their suffering," he added. Archbishop Zimowski noted that John Paul II wrote about the Good Samaritan and he taught that “doing good to those who suffer is doing good from one's own suffering.”
For the upcoming World Day of the Sick, the archbishop explained that Pope Benedict is helping people see the good Samaritans of our times. "The message relates to those who have suffered for others like Saint Therese of the Child Jesus and Anna Schäffer, a Bavarian saint that offered her life for all humanity," Archbishop Zimowski stated.
"These Good Samaritans offer their time, their heart, and their money to those who suffer, and we recall Mother Teresa of Calcutta and several others," he added. "Each one of us can and must be a Good Samaritan among us, and when we have to suffer, we need to, through our suffering, do good to the world and to humanity," the archbishop said.
Father Jansusz Surzykiewicz, a priest who teaches psychology and theology at the Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt, is also concerned with spiritual health being neglected or forgotten in Germany. "Many Germans say they are spiritual and want to have spiritual support even though they don't want to belong to an institution like the Church," he remarked.
He believes that one way to address this would be for hospitals and institutions to focus on improving patients’ spiritual well-being. "There is a kind of evidence that this is important because people who believe in God are better patients, cope better with stress, and have more confidence within their families," Fr. Surzykiewicz asserted.
The Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt will host a conference Feb. 7 – 8 with the head of German doctors and a professor in philosophy and medicine as guest speakers to discuss how spiritual health can be introduced in German health care.