WASHINGTON (December 8, 2004) —In a message for the World Day of the Sick, to be celebrated in Africa early next year, Pope John Paul II said "Everyone should feel involved in the fight against AIDS."
"It is up to those in government and the civil authorities to provide…clear and correct information at the service of citizens, and also to devote sufficient resources to the education of young people and to health care," the Pontiff declared. "I encourage international organizations to promote initiatives in this field that are inspired by wisdom and solidarity, always seeking to defend human dignity and uphold the inviolable right to life."
The Pope had words of praise for pharmaceutical companies that are committed to keeping down the price of drugs and medicines used in the treatment of AIDS. "It is certainly the case that economic resources are needed in the health care field and that yet further resources are needed to make the drugs and medicines that are discovered marketable, but in the face of emergencies such as AIDS the safeguarding of human life must come before any other assessment," John Paul said.
The Holy Father asked that pastoral workers bring to their brothers and sisters affected by AIDS all possible material, moral and spiritual comfort. "I urgently ask the world's scientists and political leaders, moved by the respect and love due to every human person, to use every means available in order to put an end to this scourge."
Christ, Hope for Africa is the theme of the 13th World Day of the Sick, which will be held at the Sanctuary of Mary the Queen of the Apostles in Yaounde, Cameroon, on February 11, 2005.
Pope John Paul II said the World Day of the Sick has as its purpose to stimulate reflection on the notion of health, "which in its most complete meaning also alludes to a situation of harmony of the human being with himself and with the world that surrounds him."
"Unfortunately," he continued, "this harmony is today strongly disturbed. So many diseases devastate this continent, and amongst them all, in particular, there is the scourge of AIDS, 'which is sowing suffering and death in many parts of Africa.' "Conflicts and wars, which torment by no means few regions in Africa, make interventions designed to prevent and treat these diseases more difficult. In camps for refugees and displaced persons there often lie people who even lack the supplies that are indispensable to their survival."
"I exhort those who have the possibility to do so to become deeply committed to ending those tragedies," Pope John Paul said. Alluding to his 1994 Post-Synod Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa, the Holy Father said: "Those who foment wars in Africa by the arms trade are accomplices in abominable crimes against humanity."
"As regards the drama of AIDS, I have already had occasion in other circumstances to emphasize that AIDS is also a 'pathology of the spirit,'" Pope John Paul continued. "In order to fight AIDS in a responsible way, its prevention should be increased through education in respect for the sacred value of life and through formation in the correct practice of sexuality. Indeed, although many infections by contagion through blood take place, especially during the course of pregnancy-infections that should be combated with every endeavor-those that take place by a sexual route, which can be avoided first and foremost through responsible behavior and the observance of chastity, are far greater in number."
The Holy Father called on the Bishops' Conferences of the other continents of the world to join the pastors of Africa in effectively addressing the AIDS crisis and other emergencies. "The Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care will not fail to offer, as it has done in the past, its own contribution to coordinating and promoting such cooperation, calling for the practical support of every Bishops' Conference," the Pope said.
The World Day of the Sick is celebrated each February under the sponsorship of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care. Its purpose is to give thanks and recognition to those in the health care ministry, to encourage reflection on the Church's teaching on health care, and to pray for the sick.
In recent years observances have been held in India, Australia, and, in 2003, the United States.