Dear Sick and Suffering Brothers and Sisters, Venerable Brother Bishops and Priests responsible for pastoral care for the sick, Esteemed Associations of the Sick, All those who Provide Generous Service to the Sick and the Suffering,
We are in the full unfolding of the Year for Priests that was proclaimed by Benedict XVI on 19 July 2009 on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the birth of John Mary Vianney, the Patron saint of all the parish priests in the world. In his letter proclaiming a year for priests, the Holy Father wrote: ‘This Year is meant to deepen the commitment of all priests to interior renewal for the sake of a stronger and more incisive witness to the Gospel in todays world. In this time of grace the whole of the Christian community is called to rediscover the beauty of the priestly vocation and thus to pray for priests.
A priest at the bedside of a sick person represents Christ himself, the Divine Physician, who is not indifferent to the fate of those who suffer. Indeed, through the sacraments of the Church, administered by a priest, Jesus Christ offers to a sick person healing through reconciliation and the forgiveness of sins, through anointing with holy oil and lastly in the Eucharist, in the viaticum in which Christ himself becomes, as Giovanni Leonardi used to say, ‘the medicine of immortality by which ‘we are comforted, nourished, transformed into God, and participants in the divine nature (cf. 2Pt 1:4).