Eight million pilgrims expected to travel to France to celebrate the 150th anniversary celebrations of the Lourdes apparitions


With Pope Benedict XVI likely to visit the Marian shine at Lourdes in southern France next year to join eight million people celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Marian apparitions, the message is clear and simple – everybody’s welcome.

Chaplain at the sanctuary, Fr Martin Moran, visited London last week to explain the plans for the Jubilee celebrations. He was joined at the press conference, chaired by Bishop John Arnold, Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster, by Fr Graeme Rowlands of the Society of Mary and Richard King, director of the charitable organisation HCPT – a pilgrimage trust working with people with disabilities.

The Jubilee celebrations will comprise of 12 ‘Missions’ to address the needs of the Church. During the year, these missions will be expressed by a diverse range of pilgrimage groups sharing their experience, faith and witness.

Fr Rowlands is focussing on Mission 4: ‘The Church in Mission for Christian Unity’. 15-25 January 2008 is the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Later in the year, 23-26 September, the Joint Catholic Anglican Pilgrimage will take place. It’s organised by the Society of Mary and by the local Catholic community in England. Anglican Bishop Robert Ladds, Bishop of Whitby, will lead the pilgrimage.

Richard King from HCPT spoke about Mission 7: ‘The Church in Mission with People with Disability’. The HCPT Lourdes Jubilee pilgrimage will take place on 23-29 March 2008.

The story of Lourdes began in 1858 when the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Bernadette Soubirous. Bernadette witnessed the 18 apparitions of the Virgin Mary in the French town from 11 February to 16 July, 1858. It’s a place where Christians from around the world can freely express their faith and somewhere the sick and people with disabilities have priority.