February 11 is World Day of the Sick, an observation started by Pope John Paul II as a way for believers to offer prayers for those suffering from illnesses. The day coincides with the commemoration of Our Lady of Lourdes.
People around the world take the time to pray for the sick and for those who work very hard to alleviate the suffering of the sick on this day. Faith organizations mark this day especially to provide the sick with medicines, food, and spiritual guidance.
Pope John Paul II initiated the day in 1992 to encourage people to pray for those who suffer from illness and for their caregivers. The Pope himself had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s a year before, in 1991, and it is considered that his own illness was the impetus for his designation of the day.
On February 11, 1993, the first World Day of the Sick was observed. Our Lady of Lourdes, a term referring to the Virgin Mary in honor of apparitions alleged to have been seen in and around Lourdes, France, by a little girl named Bernadette Soubirous, is also celebrated on February 11. Bernadette was recognized as a saint by the Catholic Church a few years later.
Because numerous pilgrims and tourists to Lourdes, France, claimed to have been healed at the Marian Sanctuary through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, he chose the commemoration of Our Lady of Lourdes as the day of the observance. The pope also paid homage to the Harissa sanctuary in Lebanon.
The World Day of the Sick had a particular significance in 2005 because the ailing pope died on April 2 of that year. As he lay dying in St. Peter’s Square in Rome, a large crowd assembled to pray for him.
On this day in 2013, Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation, citing his poor health as the cause for his departure. On World Day of the Sick, people all across the world take the opportunity to pray for the sick and those who labor tirelessly to alleviate their pain. Faith-based organizations commemorate this day by providing medicines, food, and spiritual guidance to the sick.
Pope Benedict XVI also declared his decision to resign from his post as the Pope on this day in 2013. He cited his failing health as the reason behind his decision.