The Holy See
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Brothers and Sisters,

On Thursday, 10 October, the World Day of Sight is going to be observed in more than 100 countries. This initiative has a far-reaching impact on humanity and health care as everyone, especially those who have made the Apostolate of Mercy their raison d'être, can realize.

There are 140 million people who cannot see; 90% of them live in developing countries where there are no special schools for children or re-habilitation centres for the elderly who can no longer see. Moreover, they often live in conditions where they have lost their independence or self-esteem.

For centuries the Catholic Church has seen in ministry to the sick as an integral part of her evangelization work (cf. "Motu proprio" Dolentium hominum, n. 1). In doing so, she has always been inspired by the acts and words of Jesus who, throughout his earthly life, was devoted to preaching the Good News and to healing the disabled and the sick, including many who were blind.... The Church sees the blind with the eyes of Christ.

Today, many of our brothers and sisters are threatened by blindness. We can and must do something, especially in the developing countries where the social, economic and health-care conditions are worst. In the opinion of specialists, 80% of the cases of blindness that afflict humanity could be cured or prevented by organizing brief meetings for spreading information and formation about the diseases that cause blindness and the simple less costly kinds of surgery that can be done in all the countries of the world.

For this reason I encourage all the organizations, groups and associations of whatever stamp that for years have worked in this field to gather the resources and send health-care workers around the world to prevent and treat cases of blindness.

I wish to thank and appreciate all persons of good will, all the health care workers in this sector, especially those involved in the programmes of the OMS for the prevention and cure of blindness and deafness. I hope that this sign of the interest of the Catholic Church may prompt the widespread observance of the World Day of Sight, may motivate the collection of funds and gifts, and sensitize public opinion to the social and health-care problems associated with blindness.

I take this opportunity once again to appeal to associations, to religious communities, to the local and particular Churches for a collaborative effort in this area in order to avoid the waste of resources and energies and to encourage the creation of a network of Christian solidarity in the framework of broader collaboration for a rational use of resources in order to reach the objectives of Vision 2020.

As I invoke divine assistance upon your activities for an ever more incisive and effective service to the fundamental cause of those deprived of sight, I wish all of you, health-care, social and volunteer workers every blessing in the Lord.

Vatican City, 9 October 2002.