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Friday, March 20, 2009


VATICAN CITY, 19 MAR 2009 (VIS) - At 4 p.m. today, the Holy Father went to Yaounde's Cardinal Leger National Rehabilitation Centre which specialises in assisting young people suffering from handicaps or traumas. The centre was founded in 1972 by Cardinal Paul-Emile Leger P.S.S., archbishop emeritus of Montreal, Canada, who at the end of his pastoral mandate retired to Africa to dedicate himself to humanitarian activities.

  On arrival, Benedict XVI was greeted by the Cameroonian minister for social affairs, the director of the Cardinal Leger Centre, and the bishop in charge of health pastoral care. The ceremony was attended by pupils of the centre and by two hundred sick people from various hospitals in Cameroon.

  "You are not alone in your pain, for Christ Himself is close to all who suffer. He reveals to the sick and infirm their place in the heart of God and in society", said the Pope in his remarks, noting how in the Gospels Christ often shows us, "through specific actions, His fraternal tenderness and benevolence towards all the broken-hearted, all whose bodies are wounded.

  "This centre is named after Cardinal Paul-Emile Leger", the Pope added, "a son of Canada who came among you to bring relief to bodies and souls. As I stand here today, I am mindful of all the people in hospitals, ... who suffer from a disability, mental or physical. I also think of those whose flesh bears the scars of wars and violence. I remember too all the sick and, especially here in Africa, the victims of such diseases as HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. I know how actively engaged the Catholic Church in your country is in the fight against these terrible afflictions, and I encourage you to pursue this urgent task with great determination".

  In the presence of atrocious torment "we feel powerless and we cannot find the right words. Before a brother or sister plunged into the mystery of the Cross, a respectful and compassionate silence, a prayerful presence, a gesture of tenderness and comfort, a kind look, a smile, often achieve more than many words. This was the experience of a small group of men and women, including the Virgin Mary and the Apostle John, who followed Jesus in the depths of His suffering at the time of His Passion and His death on the Cross".

  Among this group, the Pope explained "was an African, Simon of Cyrene, ... [who] took part, at the price of his own suffering, in the infinite suffering of the One Who ransomed all men, including His executioners".

  "It is hard to accept to carry someone else's cross. Only after the resurrection could he have understood what he had done. Brothers and sisters, it is the same for each of us: in the depths of our anguish, of our own rebellion, Christ offers us His loving presence even if we find it hard to understand that He is at our side. Only the Lord's final victory will reveal for us the definitive meaning of our trials.

  "Can it not be said", the Holy Father asked, "that every African is in some sense a member of the family of Simon of Cyrene? Every African who suffers, indeed every person who suffers, helps Christ to carry His Cross and climbs with Him the path to Golgotha in order one day to rise again with Him. ... Since the resurrection, and right up to our own time, there have been countless witnesses who have turned, with faith and hope, towards the Saviour of mankind, recognising His presence at the heart of their suffering. May the Father of mercies graciously grant the prayers of all who turn to Him. He answers our call and our prayer, as and when He wishes, for our good and not according to our desires".

  Pope Benedict invited sick people to "gaze upon the Crucified One, with faith and courage, for from Him come life, comfort, and healing", and to turn to St. Joseph, "an intercessor for bodily health ... [and] for the health of the soul".

  "All of you, doctors and researchers, have the task of putting into practice every legitimate form of pain relief; you are called, in the first place, to protect human life, you are the defenders of life from conception to natural death. For every person, respect for life is a right and at the same time a duty, since all life is a gift from God.

  "With you", he concluded, "I would like to give thanks to the Lord for all who, in one way or another, work in the service of the suffering. I encourage priests and those who visit the sick to commit themselves to an active and friendly presence in their hospital chaplaincy, or to assure an ecclesial presence in the home, for the comfort and spiritual support of the sick".

  Having blessed the sick people and the students of the Cardinal Leger Centre, the Pope returned to the apostolic nunciature where he met with members of the Special Council for Africa of the Synod of Bishops.
PV-CAMEROON/SICK/YAOUNDE                VIS 20090320 (860)

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