Sovereign Military Hospitaller
Order of St John of Jerusalem of
Rhodes and of Malta


Address of the Grand Master at the Order of Malta’s 66th international pilgrimage to Lourdes

Address of the Grand Master at the Order of Malta’s 66th international pilgrimage to Lourdes

Eminences, Excellencies, Confreres, Consoeurs, and Volunteers of the Order,

welcome to all of you! We hope you have a wonderful pilgrimage. We extend a warm welcome to first-timers and hope that you will find it inspiring and heartwarming enough to come back again, just like many of us do. In fact, it is my 28th Pilgrimage, though I shall never forget my first time here.

We have several special welcomes to extend, too:

– We are honoured and delighted to have His Eminence Gianfranco Ghirlanda, our Cardinalis Patronus, who was nominated by the Holy Father in June 2023.
– We are delighted to have His Eminence Silvano Maria Tomasi with us yet again.
– We are pleased to announce the presence of our new Prelate, Monsignor Luis Cuña Ramos, who was appointed in December 2023.
– I would also like to thank the coordination committee and in particular Marchese Gian Luca Chiavari who unfortunately cannot be with us this year for health reasons. We wish him health and every happiness. I think this is the first time since I have been coming to Lourdes that he is not with us on this stage.

This year, we have nearly 7,000 participants, with 1,200 malades, from near and far, including the United States, Hong Kong, South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, Australia, and Ukraine as well as Europe of course. 2024 marks the 66th international pilgrimage of the Order of Malta. As you all know, this pilgrimage is at the heart of the Order of Malta. It brings the International Order family together, to pray and to care for its guests, our beloved malades, with love and dedication. It is in this place, in the eyes of those we serve, that we recognise Jesus’ acute humanness – his vulnerability, his ordinary fragility.

In the garden before being crucified, Jesus turns to the disciples and appeals to them to watch over him while he prays, but they fall asleep. “Could you not watch with me for an hour?”, he laments. These touching scenes portray a sorrowful and ailing Jesus in all his suffering and in all his despair for not being loved and looked after by his friends. Time and time again, he asks his disciples to believe in him, for what is a friend if not someone who believes in you? This is what coming to Lourdes is about. Building trust and friendship, accompanying the sick and frail down a path of prayer, faith, and spiritual peace. Creating bonds that nurture hope and renewal.

As we pray here, in many parts of the world, terrible dramas are unfolding, causing misery and suffering. Across the globe, people are fleeing war, political insecurity, violence, poverty, and natural disasters. As members of the Order, the assistance we offer is deeply rooted in Christian faith and love for our fellow man, our lords the Sick and the Poor.

We actively listen to the dramatic plea of the many victims of war and violence and embrace the recent Lenten message of Pope Francis: “The exodus from slavery to freedom is no abstract journey. If our celebration of Lent is to be concrete, the first step is to desire to open our eyes to reality. When the Lord calls out to Moses from the burning bush, he immediately shows that he is a God who sees and, above all, hears: “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey” (Ex 3:7-8). Today too, the cry of so many of our oppressed brothers and sisters rises to heaven. Let us ask ourselves: Do we hear that cry? Does it trouble us? Does it move us?” Our answer to His Holiness is YES. We do hear that cry, and YES, it does trouble and move us. In all our works, our aim and our mission are to help those who suffer. We see, listen, and feel the pain and desperation around us. We are at the service of humanity in all its beauty and in all its misery.

The Order of Malta is on the front line in many theatres of action bringing relief and comfort to those in need. In Bethlehem amidst unrest, Holy Family Hospital continues to be a beacon of hope, where the health of mothers and their babies becomes even more crucial. We are close to the population in Gaza where a shortage of food and basic goods is causing an unprecedented crisis. In Lebanon, our Association has been caring for thousands of people who are suffering from the ongoing social and economic crisis that sees no end and has pushed so many people into desperation and destitution. In Ukraine, we continue to help the internally displaced as well as the refugees fleeing to neighbouring countries. In Africa, we provide ongoing social and medical support in many countries and are caring for internally displaced persons in South Sudan and Uganda.

Lastly, let’s not forget the Jubilee Year in 2025. The Order of Malta will be present during the Holy Year providing first aid service in the four Major Basilicas of the Eternal City, where more than 32 million pilgrims are expected. We will need many committed volunteers and members of the Order, whom I am certain will step up when the time comes. Please consider volunteering to this monumental task.

But our work unfolds also in the day-to-day life of so many people, victims of injustice and inequality and I am humbled by the works you, our members, and volunteers, carry out all over the world, with devotion and dedication.

My gratitude goes to the President of the French Association and to everyone in his team, to our leaders here in Lourdes, to our pilgrimage’s international co-ordination team in Rome, and to our Grand Priors and Presidents who, all together, make up a formidable combination in the organisation of this international event.

I wish you all a holy and joyful Pilgrimage. Enjoy Lourdes!!! From experience, I can assure you first-timers that it will change your life. Vive Notre Dame de Lourdes et Vive Bernadette.

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