Pope Benedict XVI paid a visit to the sick and health care workers of the Rome Hospice Foundation Sunday morning at their facility located just minutes from the Vatican. He lauded the hospice for providing free care and invited the sick to use the "light of faith" to bring them closer to God.
The Sacre Cuore (Sacred Heart) Hospice was very pleased to host the Pontiff on-site, where 30 patients suffering from terminal cancer are treated without cost. The hospice also provides home health care for 90 others.
Pope Benedict XVI addressed the gathering, saying that in a world that tends to marginalize those that suffer from incurable illness and think of them as a weight on society, "Whoever has a sense of human dignity knows ... that they should be respected and sustained while they face the difficulties and the suffering tied to their health conditions."
In providing their health care, said the Pope, "Along with the indispensable clinical cures, it's necessary to offer the sick concrete gestures of love, of nearness and of Christian solidarity to fulfill their need of comprehension, of comfort and of constant encouragement."
"I've come to offer to each of you a concrete testimony of nearness and affection," the Holy Father told them. "I assure you of my prayer and I invite you to find sustenance and comfort in Jesus, to never lose trust and hope."
"Your illness is a very painful and singular test, but before the mystery of God ... this acquires meaning and becomes a gift and occasion of sanctification."
"When the suffering and discomfort become stronger," counseled the Pontiff, "think that Christ is associating you to the cross because he wants to say through you a word of love to all who have lost their way in life and, closed in their own empty egoism, live in sin and distance from God."
"In fact, your health conditions witness that true life is not here, but close to God, where each of us will find joy and will have humbly placed our steps after those of the most true man: Jesus of Nazareth, Teacher and Lord."
Pope Benedict concluded that in this time of Advent, when we speak of "preparing the way for the Lord," through "the light of faith" sickness and suffering can become a particular Advent experience, "a visit from God that in a mysterious way happens to liberate from solitude and lack of meaning and transform pain into time spent with Him, of hope and salvation.
"The Lord comes, he's here, alongside us!” Benedict XVI exclaimed.
Looking ahead to Christmas, the Pope said it “offers us the possibility to contemplate the Holy Child, the real light that comes to this world to manifest ´the grace of God, that brings salvation to all men.'"