Cardinal Welcomes Largest ever Pilgrimage from Westminster to Lourdes

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor yesterday welcomed the largest ever pilgrimage from the Diocese of Westminster to Lourdes.

This year over 1,200 pilgrims from the Diocese of Westminster have travelled to Lourdes, with around 500 pilgrims making the journey for the first time.

The 2007 Diocese of Westminster Pilgrimage includes people from every one of the diocese's deaneries, all four auxiliary bishops, over 50 priests, and Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, Archbishop of Westminster.

The diocesan medical team will be caring for 52 sick pilgrims who have an extremely challenging range of medical conditions.

For the first time, over 60 pilgrims with learning disabilities will be coming from St Joseph's Pastoral Centre in Hendon and the pilgrimage will be making specific provision for their needs.

The Diocese of Westminster Pilgrimage has also offered prayers for 26 pilgrims from Poland who were killed in a coach crash near Grenoble, France, last Sunday. The pilgrims had been visiting a number of Marian shrines and had recently left the Shrine of Notre Dame de La Salette after previously visiting Lourdes.

In a homily delivered at the Citè St Pierre outdoor chapel at Lourdes on Monday, Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor urged pilgrims to abide by the three 'p's' of the pilgrimage: prayer, penance and perseverance.

He said that Lourdes was such a special place because it enabled Catholics to discover again how to pray.

"Lourdes is a place where you can be quiet and to listen. My prayer for you is that you will be able to find time to be still and listen to God and in this way deepen your life of prayer," he said.

The theme of Lourdes in 2007 is based around reconciliation to God and to others, providing a "chance for all of us in our own personal lives to turn way from what it is that leads us away from God", he said.

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor stressed the importance of the Sacrament of Reconciliation: "Lourdes provides a time for all to go to confession and to say to God what it is that is troubling you, what it is that I need freedom from."

On perseverance, he urged Catholics to make a lifelong commitment to the Lord: "It is easy to follow the Lord for a day or a week, to be faithful to God for a short while, but we are asked to be faithful to God day after day, week after week and year after year.

"I pray that all of you may have the faith and the perseverance to continue in your love of Christ and faith in Him."

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor concluded his Homily: "These are good times to be a Christian and a Catholic. Our faith teaches us to live the kind of life that is an example to the world today.

"We are here in Lourdes to see the fruit of our prayer and devotion, not only for ourselves but for all of those in our diocese we pray for."

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