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February 6, 2000


Dear Brothers and Sisters!

1. Today Italy celebrates "Life Day", which has "Unto us a Child is Given" as its theme; an echo of the oracle of the prophet Isaiah (9:5) proclaimed in the Christmas liturgy. In their traditional Message for this Day, the Italian Bishops reminded the faithful that every child is an immense gift: for parents, for the family, for the Church and for society.

The worrisome demographic decline registered in recent years cannot but be a motive for attentive reflection and a stimulus for renewal in Italian society, both of its mentality and its cultural, political, and legislative choices. It is the task, certainly, of public institutions, which are called to overcome difficulties that place obstacles before the family. But above all it is up to married couples to re-establish a culture of love and life, rediscovering the mission of parenthood assumed on their wedding day.

2. A culture of life is the ideal context not only for welcoming children, but also for respect and attention towards every person, starting with the weakest and most defenseless. In this regard, I am pleased to take advantage this occasion as a reminder that next Friday, February 11, memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, the Jubilee of the Sick and Health-Care Workers will be celebrated.

This special Jubilee celebration sheds light upon the importance of human life in the plan of Redemption: Christ used the curing of the sick as a privileged sign of the Kingdom of God; and by his Passion and Death, he -- the Good Samaritan of humanity -- redeemed us from sin, to give us the gift of health of spirit and body. Following in his footsteps, the Church has drawn close to suffering men and women in every place and at all times by means of innumerable works for the good of the sick, especially the poorest and the abandoned.

In preparation for the Jubilee of the Sick, a meeting will take place in the Vatican this Wednesday and Thursday to study the identity of Catholic health professionals, and the challenges that face them at the beginning of the third millennium. On Thursday a Holy Mass will be celebrated for the sick in the Basilica Saint Paul Outside the Walls, whereas I myself will preside the one held on Friday the 11th here at St. Peter's. Finally, on Saturday, there will be a Stations of the Cross at the Coliseum and, in the evening, a festive gathering in Paul VI Audience Hall.

3. We entrust the efforts of the Church to defend and promote human life, in Italy and in the whole world, to Mary Most Holy. Of her, Mother of those who suffer and Health of the sick, we ask her special intercession, so that each person passing through difficult moments may find light and comfort in the Gospel of Life.

Priests for Life
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