08/14/2004, 00.00
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Pope: suffering is not useless. It is an offering for the world

An analysis of the Papal first day in Lourdes, among pain, prayers, care for the world.

Lourdes(AsiaNews) – The time of physical suffering is not "less fruitful". This is the personal testimony that John Paul II gave today in Lourdes: "I share with you a time of life marked by physical suffering, but not less fruitful in God's plan". He arrived on a moving chair, which is nothing else than a wheelchair. He allowed card. Etchegaray to read the greetings to the "dear infirm", because his voice was failing. He slipped – fortunately without falling – on the kneeler before  Our Lady's Grotto, where he stopped – visibly moved – immediately after his arrival to the city. The Pope in Lourdes – whose visit is motivated by the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the dogmatic declaration of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary – will be an infirm among the sick. This seemed to be the meaning of his pilgrimage: a gesture of solidarity, comfort and hope for those who suffer. However, JPII did more than that. He interpreted the most profound sense of the question that the innocent man can ask when he faces his own suffering: why and what is the meaning of this? He proposed to understand suffering in the context of God's Plan, rather than as an occasion for isolating oneself . "I have always had," he explained, " a great faith, for my apostolic ministry, in the sacrifice, prayer and offering of the many who are in suffering. I ask you to unite with me during this pilgrimage, to present to God, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, all the intentions of the Church and the world." "I intend to unite myself in an intimate way,"  he said upon descending the airplane "to the millions of pilgrims from every part of the world that come to Lourdes every year to entrust to the Mother of the Lord the intentions they carry in their hearts and to ask for her help and intercession."

He carries the intentions of the world  on this his 104th pilgrimage, the eighth in France.

There was anticipation for the meeting of the Pope with President Jacques Chirac, after France rejected the "common Christian roots in the future European Constitution and of the introduction in the country of laws against religious symbols. Chirac, who met the Pope with reverence and rhetoric, underlined the common point of view of France and the Holy See on the defence of peace that was manifested in the days of  opposition to the war in Iraq. He spoke of "the battle for peace,  so that relationships between nations can be regulated by laws, and the dialogue between cultures can be used as an antidote to violence and  rejection of others." The Pope replied citing the celebrations for the 60th anniversary of D-Day, wishing that they could "renew the common effort to seek and build peace." But speaking with the French president, the Pope also gave "honor to the great heritage of culture and faith that marks the history of the country." I cannot forget the great saints of this land, the masters of Christian thought, the schools of spirituality, the numerous missionaries who left the country to bring  to all the world the news of Christ the Lord."

Not even in this respect, the time of physical suffering can stop John Paul II.

In the afternoon, during the rosary,  prayer and care for the world were mixed again: " Hail Mary, Woman of sorrows, Mother of the living!... Teach us to experience and to spread the love of Christ, to stand with you before the innumerable crosses on which your Son is still crucified".

In John Paul II's life prayer and sickness, work and hope are mixed and hold together through the faith in Jesus Christ.

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See also
Lourdes: an exhausted Pope, "Ferragosto" and the Olympic Games
Lourdes: a past rich in devotions and pilgrimages (profile)
Christian and Muslim pilgrims in Mariamabad, Mary's city
Kerala's Our Lady of Ransom becomes a National Pilgrim Centre
A Papal rose in tribute to the "Queen" of joy and sorrow


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