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Ioannes Paulus PP. II
Christifideles Laici

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Renewed Pastoral Action

54. It is necessary that this most precious heritage, which the Church has received from Jesus Christ, "Physician of the body and the spirit"(201), must never diminish but always must come to be more valued and enriched through renewal and decisive initiatives of pastoral activity for and with the sick and suffering. This activity must be capable of sustaining and fostering attention, nearness, presence, listening, dialogue, sharing, and real help toward individuals in moments when sickness and suffering sorely test not only faith in life but also faith in God and his love as Father.

One of the basic objectives of this renewed and intensified pastoral action, which must involve all components of the ecclesial community in a coordinated way, is an attitude which looks upon the sick person, the bearer of a handicap, or the suffering individual, not simply as an object of the Church's love and service, but as an active and responsible participant in the work of evangelization and salvation. From this perspective the Church has to let the good news resound within a society and culture, which, having lost the sense of human suffering, "censors" all talk on such a hard reality of life. Thegood news is the proclamation that suffering can even have a positive meaning for the individual and for society itself, since each person is called to a form of participation in the salvific suffering of Christ and in the joy of resurrection, as well as, thereby, to become a force for the sanctification and building up of the Church.

The proclamation of this good news gains credibility when it is not simply voiced in words, but passes into a testimony of life, both in the case of all those who lovingly care for the sick, the handicapped and the suffering, as well as the suffering themselves who are increasingly made more conscious and responsible of their place and task within and on behalf of the Church.

In order that "the civilization of love" can flourish and produce fruit in this vast world of human pain, I invite all to reread and meditate on the Apostolic Letter, Salvifici Doloris, from which I am pleased to again propose the lines from its conclusion: "There should come together in spirit beneath the Cross of Calvary all suffering people who believe in Christ, and particularly those who suffer because of their faith in him who is the Crucified and Risen One, so that the offering of their sufferings may hasten the fulfilment of the prayer of the Saviour himself that all may be one. Let there also gather beneath the Cross all people of good will, for on this Cross is the 'Redeemer of Man', the Man of Sorrows, who has taken upon himself the physical and moral sufferings of the people of all times, so that in love they may find the salvific meaning of their sorrow and valid answers to all their questions.

Together with Mary, Mother of Christ, who stood beneath the Cross, we pause beside all the crosses of contemporary man and we ask all of you who suffer to support us. We ask precisely you who are weak to become a source of strength for the Church and humanity. In the terrible battle between the forces of good and evil revealed to our eyes by our modern world, may your sufferings in union with the Cross of Christ be victorious"(202).

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