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Stronger Pope thanks God for Lourdes pilgrimage

In better health than he appeared during his weekend trip to France, Pope John Paul II yesterday thanked God for the strength he was given to make his pilgrimage to Lourdes.

The Holy Father struggled to finish his homily during Mass on Sunday.

"I give thanks to God who in his benevolence allowed me to go on the pilgrimage to Lourdes," said the Pope in a clear, strong voice to the faithful gathered in Castelgandolfo.

In Polish, he told the faithful: "I thank you for having sustained me with your prayers during my pilgrimage to Lourdes."

Meanwhile the visit unexpectedly left the Lourdes Shrine (pictured) out of pocked because pilgrims had their minds on securing good seats and overlooked the donation collection boxes.

But Lourdes Bishop Jacques Perrier was pleased that the expected bottlenecks failed to materialise.

"The figures are bad," he admitted. "We thought it would be very slow, like at airport security controls, and we'd have the time to explain to people that they should give a little bit."

Perrier said he was sure Catholics who heard of the shrine's financial problems would contribute to cover the deficit in the $A2.55 million budget for the visit.

The Vatican is now preparing the Holy Father's next trip, to the Italian town of Loreto, at the beginning of next month. Officials have also raised the possibility the Holy Father might also make a pilgrimage in coming months to Istanbul, Turkey, taking up the invitation of a Christian Orthodox leader.

Pope thanks God for Lourdes pilgrimage, appears in better health (Catholic News Agency 18/8/04)
Pope Visit Leaves Lourdes with Hefty Deficit (Reuters 18/8/04)
Vatican Gives Schedule of Pope's Next Trip (Associated Press/Lexington Herald-Leader 17/8/04)

Why the Pope Went to Lourdes (Zenit 17/8/04)
3 Members of Catholic Action to Be Beatified (Zenit 17/8/04)
Psalm points to Christ as the Messiah and perfect priest, says Pope (Catholic News Agency 18/8/04)
Pope thanks God for allowing him to make pilgrimage to Lourdes (Catholic News Service 18/8/04)
Pope to visit Marian shrine to beatify lay Italians, Spanish priest (Catholic News Service 17/8/04)
Pope's next pilgrimage confirmed despite weakness (Catholic World News 18/8/04)
Pope appears stronger at audience (Catholic World News 18/8/04)
Pope Encourages Dominicans' "Ministry of Thought" (Zenit 17/8/04)
Pope prays for Tutsis massacred in Burundian refugee camp (CathNews 18/8/04)
Cardinal Danneels says Pope's health "seriously weakened" (CathNews 17/8/04)
Pope's Lourdes call for youth "breath of fresh air" (CathNews 16/8/04)

19 Aug 2004