64th pilgrimage to Lourdes
The Order of Malta’s 64th international pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes, in the foothills of the Pyrenees in France, officially begins as the Lieutenant of the Grand Master, Fra’ Marco Luzzago, arrives here today.
Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, it was unable to hold this traditional meeting of members and volunteers of the Order of Malta to accompany the Our Lords the Sick to the Grotto of Massabielle for two consecutive years, 2020 and 2021. In spiritual union with Our Lady of Lourdes, in these two years pilgrimages have been organized in virtual form or in other places of prayer such as the Grotto of Lourdes in the Vatican Gardens.
This year the number of participants, albeit lower than that of the previous editions before the pandemic, is still considerable and some 3,000 patients, members and volunteers will attend, a clear sign of faith and hope. Pilgrims come to Lourdes from over 30 countries from all corners of the planet, from the United States to Australia, from Brazil to Scandinavia. In 2019, before the pandemic, there were over 7,400 participants in the pilgrimage, of whom 1,300 were assisted.
The Pontifical Mass on Sunday will be celebrated by Cardinal Silvano Maria Tomasi, the Pope’s special delegate to the Order of Malta. In addition to the Lieutenant of the Grand Master, members of the Sovereign Council and the Prelate, Monsignor Jean Laffitte, will be participating in the Marian pilgrimage.
The many Covid victims, including pilgrims – those assisted, priests, members and volunteers – will be remembered during the pilgrimage, which will last until May 3. Some of the traditional activities will be different from the pre-pandemic period. For example, immersion in the baths will no longer be possible but the spiritual path of the water gesture will consist of drinking and washing your face in the miraculous spring, in the symbolic place of the baths.
The theme of this year’s pilgrimage and the next two is taken from the words addressed by the Virgin to Saint Bernadette during the thirteenth apparition on March 2, 1858: “Go and tell the priests that people should come here in procession, and that a chapel should be built here”.