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Letter to the Disabled from Vatican II

From 1962 to 1965, a most important event occurred in the Church - Vatican Council II. It was several general meetings in Rome of the world’s bishops (over 2,400) presided by the popes of the time – Blessed John XXIII and Paul VI. On the last day of the Council, December 8, 1965, Pope Paul VI and the Council Fathers (participants) addressed a message to the suffering people of the world. During the solemn closing Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica, the message was entrusted to one of the residents of a Guanellian house in Rome who represented all of suffering humanity. Forty years have passed since Vatican II. In commemoration of the Council, we present to you this message which still has much relevance for today:

To all of you, brothers and sisters
who are traversing some trial and are visited by the thousand faces of suffering, the Council has a very special message.

It feels your eyes fixed upon it: your imploring eyes burning with fever or clouded by weariness, questioning faces that search for in vain the why of human suffering and that have asked anxiously when and from where will come help…

Dearest brothers and sisters, as Fathers and Shepherds we profoundly feel resounding in our hearts your tears and your cries. Our pain grows at the thought that it is not in our power to bring you physical health, to diminish your physical pains that doctors, nurses, and others who dedicate themselves to the sick strive to comfort to the best of their ability. But we do have something of a more profound and precious value to give: the sole truth capable of responding to the mystery of suffering and to bear some relief without illusions: faith and union with the Man of sufferings, to Christ, Son of God, hung on the cross for our sins and for our salvation.

The Christ did not suppress suffering nor did he wish to unveil entirely the mystery: He had taken it upon Himself and this is sufficient because we may understand totally its value. To all of you who feel more heavily the weight of the Cross, you who are poor and abandoned, you who cry, you who are persecuted on account of justice, you who are surrounded by silence, you who unknowingly suffer, be courageous: you are the favorites of the reign of God, the reign of hope, of happiness and of life; you are the brothers and sisters of the suffering Christ. With Him, if you wish, you can save the world! Behold the Christian understanding of suffering, the only that can give peace. Know that you are not alone, nor separated, nor abandoned, nor useless: you are called by Christ, [you are] His living and transparent image. In His name, the Council salutes you with love, it thanks you, it assures you of the friendship and assistance of the Church and it blesses you.

8 December 1965

Pope Paul VI
and the Fathers of the Council
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