Pope John Paul II initiated the day in 1992 to encourage people to pray for those who suffer from illness and for their caregivers. The Pope himself had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s a year before, in 1991, and it is considered that his own illness was impetus for his designation of the day.
World Day of the Sick was first observed on February 11, 1993. February 11 is also the Catholic Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, which a name is given to the Virgin Mary in honor of the apparitions that were said to have been seen in and around Lourdes, France, by a young girl called Bernadette Soubirous. The Church canonized Bernadette as a saint several years later.
Pope Benedict XVI declared his decision to resign from his post as the Pope on this day in 2013. He cited his failing health as the reason behind his decision.