RAMALLAH – On Sunday February 7, 2016, celebrations of the World Day of the Sick started during a mass in Ramallah, presided over by Patriarch Fouad Twal, in presence of the Pontifical Delegation.

Despite an icy cold weather, the faithful and sick of Ramallah and its suburbs rushed to attend the Holy Mass at the Parish Church of the Holy Family and to receive the Sacrament of the Sick. This year, the World Day of the Sick bears a special significance, as Pope Francis selected Nazareth for the solemn celebration of February 11. This day is indeed celebrated officially once every three years, like the World Youth Day and the International Day of Families. The World Day of the Sick is presided by  a Pontifical Envoy with the participation of the sick not only coming  from the country which organizes the event, but also from all over the world.

This year in the Holy Land between 6 and 13 February 2016, the Pontifical Delegation is presided by H.E. Bishop Zygmunt Zimowski, Special Envoy of the Holy See and Chairman of the Pontifical Council for Operators in the field of health.

Mass in Ramallah signalled  the opening of celebrations, in presence of Bishop Zimowsky, HB Patriarch Fouad Twal, Apostolic Nuncio Bishop Lazzarotto, Bishop Avraham Moshe, Catholic Syria Bishop of Mossoul, Bishop Kamal Bathish, Bishop McMahon, Bishop of Liverpool, and Bishop Marcuzzo, Patriarchal Vicar in Israel.

During Mass presided over by Latin Patriarch, more than 80 faithful showed up to received the Sacrament of the Sick to the great astonishment of  celebrants, since  six persons only had registered prior to celebration.  Considering the large number of faithful, the Sacrement of the Anointing of the Sick was administered  by four Bishops.

After the ritual, Bishops went to Beit Jala for lunch at a local restaurantBarbara held by a young disabled person. A  very symbolic place in these days when  the Church comes ever  closer to the sick and the disabled and calls together with Pope Francis to “Wisdom of Heart” (1).

Bishops proceeded in three groups to visit different care centers of sick, children and disabled, of Bethlehem : Caritas Baby Hospital held by the Franciscan Sisters ; Home of Peace Orphanage by the Sisters of St Elisabeth ; Hospital of the Holy Family, held by the Order of Malta, the Crib, run  by the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul , Ephpheta Pontifical Institute, run by  the Sisters of St Dorothea, and the Hogar Nino Dios of the Community of Verb Incarnate.

During a visit to the Hospital of the Holy Family held by the Order of Malta, Bishop Zimowski met the Grand Hospitaller of the Order, Dominique de la Rochefoucauld who was present for the occasion, as well as the Director of Hospital Denis Sevaistre, and the ambassador of the Order of Malta in Palestine, Justin Sterling Simpson.

On Monday February 8, 2016, the Sacrament of the Sick was administered in Bethlehem during a ceremony presided by Bishop William Shomali. The central celebration of the World Day of the Sick will take place in Nazareth on February 11 with the participation of sick and  elderly people from all over the Holy Land, and also of  sick pilgrims coming from the whole world with the help of specialized agencies.

Myriam Ambroselli