Benedict XVI to Join Celebrations at Lourdes

Jubilee Year Marks 150th Anniversary of Apparitions

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 13, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI plans to travel to Lourdes as part of the celebrations marking the 150th anniversary of the Virgin Mary's apparitions there. The date of the papal visit has not been confirmed.



Today at the Vatican, the program for the anniversary celebrations was announced at a press conference with Bishop Jacques Perrier of Tarbes and Lourdes. The celebrations are planned for this Dec. 8 through Dec. 8, 2008, feast of the Immaculate Conception.

Bishop Perrier confirmed that the Pope would visit "though we still do not know the exact date."

"Shrines and pilgrimages," the prelate went on, "today occupy an important place in religious life, especially among people who do not habitually follow religious practices. Shrines are places of silent evangelization."

Celebrations

Bishop Perrier revealed some of the events to be held during the anniversary year.

This Dec. 8, in homage to Pope John Paul II, the inauguration will take place of mosaics representing the luminous mysteries of the rosary on the facade of the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary. The mosaics were created by Father Marko Ivan Rupnik.

On Feb. 11, feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and World Day of the Sick, the first of the 18 apparitions of the Virgin to Bernadette will be commemorated.

A week later, on Feb. 18, feast of St. Bernadette, the first of the apparitions that went on for 15 straight days will be remembered. "Our Lady asked Bernadette to come to the grotto every day, and she kept her promise despite the difficulties," the bishop explained.

March 25 will mark the anniversary of the 16th apparition of the Virgin. "On that day, feast of the Annunciation, the Lady finally pronounced her name: I am the Immaculate Conception," Bishop Perrier added.

From July 15 to 20, coinciding with World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia, various groups of young Christian artists will perform in Lourdes.

A Mariological-Marian congress in Lourdes, Sept. 4-8, on the theme of "The Apparitions of the Virgin Mary: History, Faith and Theology," will consider the call to conversion exercised by shrines in general and by Marian shrines in particular.

A path

Pilgrims will be invited to follow a "path of the Jubilee," which symbolically leads from baptism to the Eucharist. It includes four stages, the bishop explained: the parish baptistery where Bernadette was baptized; the hut where her family lived that, "with its poverty and darkness, is a cause for reflection on the paradoxical nature of divine preferences"; the road to the grotto; and the chapel of the hospice where Bernadette received first Communion on June 3, 1858.

The anniversary will also be celebrated with a Jubilee Mass composed by Brother Jean-Paul Lecot, musical director of the Shrine of Lourdes.

Some 8 million pilgrims are expected to visit Lourdes for the anniversary year.