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Pope's Lourdes pilgrimage to praise God, not seek healing

Pope John Paul II will make a pilgrimage to Lourdes this month not to seek physical healing but to praise God for his great gifts, including the gift of the Blessed Virgin Mary, said the papal trip organiser.

"Lourdes is not just a place to seek healing, it is a place where people demonstrate their faith in God and their devotion to Mary," said Bishop Renato Boccardo, the trip organiser and secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.

The 84-year-old Pope John Paul has billed his trip to the shrine in the French Pyrenees as part of his commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the solemn proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.

"To look at this pilgrimage as the trip of a sick person among the sick is totally shortsighted," Bishop Boccardo told Catholic News Service. "The Holy Father is not going to Lourdes because he is sick," he said. "He is going because he is the pope, and he will carry the whole church with him to offer adoration to Mary and to God."

On 8 December 1854, Pope Pius IX formally proclaimed that with "a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God," the Blessed Virgin Mary was "preserved free from all stain of original sin" from the moment of her conception.

Bishop Boccardo said the dogma of the Immaculate Conception "says to the world that innocence is possible, especially for Mary, but also for us. Baptism in Jesus gives us back the innocence present at the beginning of creation."

The bishop said the pope is travelling to Lourdes to remind people of God's grace and God's initiatives throughout human history to bring people back to himself. Obviously, a key part of God's outreach to sinful human beings was sending his son, born of a virgin who was without sin.

In the Lourdes apparitions, Mary called for prayer and penance, and she told Bernadette to drink the water of small spring in the grotto. Five days later, a friend of Bernadette's bathed her injured arm in the spring and was healed.

The pope, like St. Bernadette 146 years earlier, will drink water from the Lourdes spring upon his arrival at the grotto on 14 August, Bishop Boccardo said.

"The water," the bishop said, "is a sign of reconciliation and of baptism."

However, Bishop Boccardo said that Pope John Paul will not bathe in the waters of the spring, which is a ritual of faith and hope carried out by more than 300,000 ailing people each year.

"I can exclude that the pope is going to ask for healing" while at Lourdes, the bishop said. "Rather, he will praise God for his great works, one of which was Mary."

Bishop says pope to visit Lourdes to praise God, not seek healing (Catholic News Service 30/7/04)

Pope Sends Condolences for Victims of Gas (Zenit 30/7/04)
The Pope invites pilgrims to Lourdes and Loreto ( 1/8/04)

2 Aug 2004