VATICAN CITY -- In a message for the 2011 World Day of the Sick, Pope Benedict XVI called on civil authorities to invest more in health care systems, especially for the poor and needy.
The pope also thanked the many thousands of Catholic health workers and volunteers who help care for the sick and elderly.
The World Day of the Sick is celebrated annually Feb. 11, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. The Vatican released the text of the papal message Dec. 18.
Pope Benedict expressed his affection for all those suffering from disease or infirmity, and he prayed that they receive "peace and healing of the heart." He said sickness can be seen with "eyes of hope" if one understands that through his death and resurrection, Christ "did not remove evil and suffering from the world, but defeated them at their root."
"For this World Day of the Sick, I invite the authorities to invest more and more in health care systems that can assist and support the suffering, especially the poorest and the most needy," he said.
The pope offered a special greeting to young people who experience sickness, and appealed to all youths to recognize Christ in those who are poor, sick, suffering and in difficulty. He asked young people to "create bridges of love and solidarity, so that no one may feel alone."
The pope said care for the sick is a mark of a civilized society.
"A society unable to accept its suffering members and incapable of helping to share their suffering and to bear it inwardly through 'compassion' is a cruel and inhuman society," he said, quoting from his 2007 encyclical, "Spe Salvi" (on Christian hope).