Vatican Conference Will Discuss How Blessed John Paul II Helped the Sick

President of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers: 'We have to give testimony to his life and suffering so that people can know the good that John Paul II did for sick people.'

VATICAN CITY (EWTN News/CNA)—The life, death and legacy of Blessed Pope John Paul II will take center stage at an international conference for health-care workers that begins Nov. 24 in Rome.

“We really hope this great Pope, great in life, great in suffering, great in death, will, even after his death, live on in our hearts,” said Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, in remarks to EWTN News.

“Because there is a new generation who only know him through books and through pictures,” Archbishop Zimowski explained, “we have to give testimony to his life and suffering so that people can know the good that John Paul II did for sick people.”

The conference has the theme “Health Pastoral Care, Serving Life in the Light of the Magisterium of Blessed John Paul II” and will run from Nov. 24 to 26.

Blessed John Paul established the World Day of the Sick and the Good Samaritan Foundation, which he created in 2004 to provide financial support for poor people who are sick, particularly those suffering from HIV and AIDS.

Archbishop Zimowski recalled how at the beatification ceremony for Blessed John Paul, Pope Benedict described his predecessor as “‘a rock’ because he was close to Jesus, but he was also ‘a rock’ in his illness and his sickness.”

A Pole himself, Archbishop Zimowski got to know Pope John Paul over many years, beginning while he was still at the seminary in 1967. After that, he regularly met the future Pope, then Cardinal Wojtyla, every fortnight at the University of Lublin. He and other students had breakfast with him or dinner, Archbishop Zimowski said, calling it a “very great privilege and pleasure to meet him.”

John Paul made such an impact on the archbishop that he now keeps a reliquary containing a fragment of cloth stained with the late Pope’s blood in the chapel of the pontifical council. It was given to the council by Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, private secretary to Pope John Paul.

This week’s conference will hear various lectures and testimonies on the life and teaching of Pope John Paul II, with a special emphasis on the Christian value of suffering and his encyclical Evangelium Vitae (Gospel of Life).

Contributions will come from a range of speakers, including Cardinal Dziwisz and Cardinal Fiorenzo Angelini, president emeritus of the health-care council.

The conference will be attended by nearly 700 participants from 70 countries, among whom will be six ambassadors to the Holy See.

On Friday, Nov. 25, attendees will hear a classical concert in the presence of Pope Benedict entitled “The Cross, Mercy and Glory.” The proceeds of the concert will be given to the Good Samaritan Foundation.

“These three categories, presenting the cross, the mercy of God, and his glory, is actually the life of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because suffering is not an end in itself, but it is elevated when it is united with the suffering of Christ on the cross,” Msgr. Charles Namugera from the health-care council told EWTN News. “And the suffering of Christ, what it shows to the world, is the love of God, the mercy of God. And it eventually elevates the suffering people to the glory of the risen Lord.”