Volunteers to Launch Lourdes Jubilee

Marks 150th Anniversary of Apparitions

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LOURDES, France, DEC. 5, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Volunteers from the world over will converge on Lourdes to open up the Jubilee year celebrating the 150th anniversary of the apparitions of the Virgin Mary in the French town.

Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, the agency which coordinates and promotes the world's Catholic institutions of assistance and volunteering, will preside Friday at the Mass in the Church of St. Pius X.

The jubilee officially opens Saturday, Dec. 8, the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, and will conclude on the same day in 2008.

Organizers of the jubilee year have organized 12 missions, one for each month of the year, organized around themes such as volunteerism, Mary, the sick, youth and peace. They estimate some 8 million people will visit the city in the Pyrenees this year.

An estimated 3,500 people will participate in the first mission titled "The Church in Mission With Its Volunteers in the Service of Others."

On Dec. 8, Cardinal Cordes will give a speech in the plenary session of the encounter about the encyclical "Deus Caritas Est" and volunteering.

The council explained in a press statement that the cardinal's message will be along the same lines of the address Benedict XVI gave Saturday to the forum Catholic nongovernmental organizations, held in the Vatican.

The Pope encouraged the associations to find practical and efficacious ways of living "the great creativity concerning man's innate dignity and the rights which are derived from that dignity."

Cardinal Cordes would like this message to resound within "the world of volunteering which for the last century and a half has accompanied and shared the life of the sick in Lourdes."