Pope Francis honoured families who care for their sick loved ones, calling them "hidden heroes" during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square on Wednesday.
The Pope talked about people who go to work after spending a sleepless night taking care of their sick family member. "These are the heroes. This is heroism of the family," he said. "This hidden heroism is done with tenderness and with courage when someone is sick at home," he added.
The Pope's speech was the latest in a series of catechesis focusing on the family, which he shared with pilgrims in Saint Peter's Square.
He has been dedicating his Wednesday addresses on family issues ahead of the World Meeting of Families in September and the Synod of Bishops on the Family in October.
The latest address focused on the troubles experienced when a family member gets sick. "It is an experience of our fragility which we live mostly in the family, from children, and above all the elderly," he said.
The Pope said the love we feel for family members and other loved ones makes us empathize with them even more.
This is especially true when parents suffer because of a daughter or son falling ill, he added.
As families in many parts of the world do not have immediate access to health care, the family becomes the "closest hospital," and the responsibility of caring for the sick family member is given to the parents, grandparents, and siblings, the Pope noted.
The Holy Father recalled several events from the Gospel when Jesus heals the sick. "(Jesus) publicly demonstrates himself as one who fights against illness, and who has come to heal man of every evil: The evil of the spirit and the evil of the body," he said.
The Pontiff recalled a scene from the Gospel of Mark in which sick persons and those possessed by evil spirits were brought to Jesus.
He recounted how doctors of the law, or "Pharisees" as named in the Bible, rebuked Jesus for healing on the Sabbath day, the Pope said. "But the love of Jesus was to give health, and do good."
He focused on Jesus healing a man blind since birth, and the debate over whether he was blinded because of his sins or his parents' sins. "The Lord clearly said: neither him nor his parents; and thus he manifested in him the work of God, and healed him."
The Pope said it is God's glory and the Church's responsibility "to always help, console, to lift up, and be close to the sick."
Pope Francis said the Christian family is never alone in times of sickness. "We must thank the Lord for the beautiful experiences of fraternity in the Church which help families through difficult moments of pain and suffering," he said.
"This Christian closeness, from family to family, is a real treasure for the parish: a treasure of wisdom, which helps families during difficult times and makes them better understand the Kingdom of God."
"These are God's caresses," he concluded.