Crowded programs of faith and pastoral discussions on the Church’s healthcare mission marked this year’s World Day of the Sick in India with a special focus on the works of St. Mother Teresa of Kolkata. The three-day Vatican-sponsored program from Feb. 9-11 stressed the compassionate mission of the Catholic Church among the sick and the suffering. It has 300 participants including 200 delegates from India and other Asian nations, Programs were led by Ghanaian Cardinal Peter K.A. Turkson, head of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development that sponsored the event in Kolkata, the base of St. Teresa
. “There cannot be any true care of the sick without sharing their condition,” Cardinal Turkson told the inaugural gathering when explaining the meaning and purpose of the World Day of the Sick that Pope St. John Paul ll started in 1992. The program should help Christians better understand their mission to help the sick by “showing excessive compassion”
and expressing a “readiness to bring them care and comfort,” he said. The event included visits to church-run care centers, two public Masses, praying over the sick and administration of the sacrament of anointing of the sick for some 200 people. Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario of Dhaka, papal legate at the event, appreciated selecting Kolkata for the occasion. He said St. Teresa, more popularly known as Mother Teresa
, is “an unmistakable icon of works of mercy and Christian charity.” Father Michael Biswas of Kolkata Archdiocese said the most memorable aspect of the programs was on the second day when participants visited three care centers, two of them managed by Missionaries of Charity congregation started by Mother Teresa. At the St. Joseph's Home for the Aged in Kolkata, which is run by the Little Sisters of the Poor, “some of [the elderly] were in tears when they explained how their families have abandoned them,” Father Biswas said. When visiting the three care homes, the delegates were split into three groups of some 100 each. Those who visited Missionaries of Charity nuns’ Shanti Dan (gift of peace) and Prem Dan (gift of love) reported “enriched experience,” said Farrell Shaw, the event’s coordinator. The opening day of Feb. 9 was spent mostly in seminars discussing the theological and pastoral aspects of the Church's mission among the sick and suffering. Delegate bishops and diocesan healthcare secretaries also had a private meeting with the 16-member Vatican delegation. But there were no public resolutions or declarations, Shaw told ucanews.com. Father Biswas said what surprised him was the faith of some 3,000 Catholics who attended the public Mass at St. Xavier’s College on Feb. 10. After the Mass, hundreds lined up to be prayed over. Around 200 were administered the sacrament of anointing of the sick.
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“[After the Mass] people crowded and waited around the two cardinals with bottles of water and oil from their homes. They wanted the cardinals just to touch and bless what they carried,” Father Biswas said. Local Catholics use the water or oil in the hope that they will cure their ailments, he said. “Hundreds of people also lined up wanting to be prayed over by the priests, bishops and the cardinals,” Father Biswas said. Some 160 priests were designated for administering the sacrament of anointing of the sick people, who were selected earlier. “Most of them came from Missionaries of Charity homes and some were brought in wheelchairs,” Father Biswas said. The concluding function on Feb. 11 was held at the Basilica of the Holy Rosary, a 16th century Portuguese-built church in Bandel, 50 kilometers from Kolkata. About 700 people joined the Mass, prayers for the sick and anointing of the sick there as well, Shaw said.