In a unique ceremony to mark the Jubilee year of Mercy called by Pope Francis almost 2,000 pilgrims from Dublin will process through a Holy Door of Mercy at Lourdes in France this week.
The group is traveling to the Marian Shrine in the south west of France for the 67th Dublin Diocesan Pilgrimage. It is the largest religious pilgrimage of its kind to leave Ireland every year. It will be led by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin with eight full flights leaving Dublin airport over two days.
183 sick and elderly people are among those travelling to Lourdes, some are highly dependent but each person will have an extraordinary level of support– with nurses, doctors, priests, lay volunteers and young students all travelling to help. Among the pilgrim group are 45 nurses, 9 doctors, 130 secondary schools students from 21 different schools, 160 youth group members, 41 priests and 480 lay volunteers.
One of the features of the Jubilee Year of Mercy is the granting of an indulgence once you have crossed through a Holy Door and have fulfilled one of the other conditions, which includes caring for the sick. The faithful also stop in prayer to fulfil the final actions asked for: the profession of faith, and prayer for the Pope and his intentions.
Following the Opening Mass of the 2016 Pilgrimage, the large Dublin group will process from the world famous Grotto along a Way of Mercy and through the Holy Door at Lourdes.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said, “Lourdes is a place of mercy, where we learn mercy though seeing mercy and through being merciful. Lourdes can bring out the best in us. Our helpers support our sick and learn from our sick. That is why they come back year after year and we are deeply grateful to them. In Lourdes our young people learn that happiness and fulfilment are not to be found in the superficial attractions of consumerist fashion. In Lourdes we learn that happiness can well be found in those who have little to offer in worldly terms. “
The Director of this year’s pilgrimage is Fr. Martin Noone – he had a special word of welcome for the young people who have returned to volunteer this year. “We have a happy situation with the Lourdes Pilgrimage in that it continues to inspire young people – over 160 are taking part this year, many of whom first travelled as secondary schools students. That they choose to return with us year after year is a real source of inspiration and I wish to express my gratitude to each of them. “
Another Dublin secondary school, St. Pauls in Raheny, is joining the pilgrimage this year for the first time. With other students, participants will volunteer for long days in Lourdes helping the sick and elderly participate in Mass, prayer services and social events throughout the week.