08/11/2004, 00.00
POPE - LOURDES -VATICAN
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Pope reveals why he is going on pilgrimage to Lourdes

Lourdes message: spiritual healing of modern man, world peace in God.

Castelgandolfo (AsiaNews) - "I shall carry in my heart the gratitude and the pleas of the entire Church, if not the entire world, whose peace and salvation cannot come but from God." With these words Pope John Paul II revealed his thoughts on the eve of his pilgrimage to Lourdes scheduled for August 14 and 15.

Before a crowd of thousands of faithful gathered in Castelgandolfo for the traditional Wednesday General Audience, the 84-year-old Pontiff said that for him "the possibility of going back to Lourdes is a special gift of Divine Providence", one that allows him to celebrate "two great Marian mysteries", that of the "Immaculate Conception" and that of the "Assumption of Mary's body and soul".

Famous for its healing of physical ailments, the Lourdes Sanctuary welcomed the Pope in 1983.

John Paul II concluded the General Audience saying that he is going to Lourdes to ask God to heal the spirit of modern man. "It is unfortunate," the Pope said, "that sometimes modern man seems to have lost the power to know what sin is. We must plea on his behalf so that he may experience an inner reawakening."

Here is the full text of the Pope's speech:

 

"Dearest Brothers and Sisters!

Next Saturday and Sunday I shall go on an apostolic pilgrimage to the Marian Sanctuary in Lourdes. In this blessed place I shall rejoice in celebrating the Assumption of the Most Holy Mary to Heaven.

 

I am going on this pilgrimage to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the dogmatic definition of Mary's Immaculate Conception by Blessed Pope Pius IX on December 8, 1854.

The Virgin appeared four years later to Saint Bernadette in Massabielle grotto introducing herself as the "Immaculate Conception". Going back to Lourdes in the sign of this luminous truth of the faith is for me a special gift of Divine Providence.

In a single act of praise to God and the Virgin, I shall embrace two great Marian mysteries, that of the Immaculate Conception and that of the Assumption to Heaven of the body and soul. The two represent the beginning and end of Mary's earthly journey joined together in the eternal present of God who called upon Her to take part in a so unique way to the salvific event that was the Redemption of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

There will be three public moments: the recitation of the Holy Rosary on Saturday afternoon, the traditional procession "aux flambeaux" in the evening of the same day, and the celebration of the Eucharist on Sunday morning.

I shall also have a moment of silent prayer in front of the Grotto when I arrive at the Sanctuary and when I leave it.

I shall always carry in my heart the gratitude and the pleas of the entire Church, if not of the entire world, whose peace and salvation cannot come but from God.

Indeed, what message did the Lord send to the world through the Virgin of Lourdes? It can easily be summarised in a celebrated verse found in the Holy Scriptures:

 

Answer them: As I live, says the Lord GOD, I swear I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked man, but rather in the wicked man's conversion, that he may live. (Ezekiel 33, 11)

 

Speaking to young Bernadette, Mary sought to remind us of this fundamental evangelic message, namely that through prayers and penitence Christ's victory can touch everyone and every society.

We must listen to the voice our conscience to change our ways for that is where God put our faculty of knowing good and evil. It is unfortunate that sometimes modern man seems to have lost the power to know what sin is. We must plea on his behalf so that he may experience an inner reawakening, one that allows him to fully rediscover the holiness of God's Law and the duties that follow from it.

With such intentions I am set to leave for the Sanctuary of the Virgin Mary in Lourdes. I ask all of you to accompany me in spirit so that the pilgrimage of Peter's successor may be fruitful for all the people of God."

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