World Day of the Sick

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Pope Benedict XVI placing a crown[1] on a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes on the World Day of the Sick. February 11, 2007. Saint Peter's Basilica.

The World Day of the Sick is an awareness day, or observance, in the Catholic Church which was instituted on May 13, 1992 by Pope John Paul II. Beginning in 1993, it is celebrated every year on February 11, the memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes. It is not a liturgical celebration, but it seeks to be for all believers "a special time of prayer and sharing, of offering one's suffering".[2]


Pope John Paul II had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease as early as 1991, an illness which was only disclosed later, and it is significant that he decided to create the World Day of the Sick only one year after his diagnosis.[3] The pope had written a great deal on the topic of suffering and believed that it was very much a salvific and redeeming process through Christ, as he indicated in his apostolic letter Salvifici Doloris.[4]

He chose the memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes for the date of the observance because many pilgrims and visitors to Lourdes, France, have been reported to have been healed at the Marian Sanctuary there through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin. The pope also venerated the sanctuary of Harissa in Lebanon.

In 2005, the World Day of the Sick had a special significance since the ailing pope later died on April 2 of that year. Many people had gathered in St. Peter's Square in Rome to pray for him as he laid dying.

In 2013, Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation on this day, and he gave his declining health as his reason for retiring.


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