By Sarah Mac Donald - 05 September, 2013
Up to 2,000 Dublin pilgrims participating in this year’s pilgrimage to Lourdes will pray especially for peace in Syria this weekend.
The announcement follows Pope Francis’ call for the faithful to observe a day of prayer and fasting on Saturday for peace in the conflict-torn country.
The Pontiff will lead with a special five-hour prayer vigil in St Peter’s Square on Saturday evening.
At the same time, an evening of prayer for peace will begin the St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral in Dublin with Mass followed by Exposition, Benediction and night prayers. Prayers will also be said at Masses in individual parishes throughout Dublin that evening.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin will lead the annual diocesan pilgrimage to Lourdes which departs early on Saturday morning.
Despite extensive flooding at the world famous Marian Shrine just over two months ago, the pilgrimage has gone ahead as planned with minimal changes to the itinerary.
The Dublin Lourdes pilgrimage is the largest in the country. Seven planes will leave Dublin airport from 6am on Saturday carrying sick pilgrims, doctors, nurses and volunteer helpers.
Almost 140 secondary school students from 23 different schools around the archdiocese of Dublin and their teachers are taking part in the pilgrimage.
Pilgrimage Director, Fr Martin Noone, said all those on the pilgrimage would be bringing their prayers for those affected by the conflict in Syria to the welcoming Mass in St Bernadette’s Church on Saturday evening.
“Lourdes is such a peaceful, prayerful shrine – our prayers, on the vigil of her birth, will be to Our Lady Queen of Peace as we fervently hope that dialogue, peace and reconciliation will triumph in Syria over scenes of desperation and destruction,” Fr Noone said.
Bishop Eamonn Walsh will lead prayers at Mass in the Pro-Cathedral on Saturday 6pm uniting with Pope Francis in St Peter’s Square.
Following the Mass there will be Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament from 7pm, concluding with Night Prayer and Benediction at 10.30pm.
Meanwhile, Pope Francis repeated his call for peace in Syria as he closed his weekly public audience on Wednesday.
Reminding his audience of the special day of fasting and prayer that he has called for, the Pontiff renewed his invitation to all Christians “and to men and women of good will who wish to join, wherever they may be and in their own way,” in the observance. “Let us raise a cry for peace all over the world,” the Pope said.
In a message dedicated especially to Arabic-speaking Christians, the Pope said, “Faith is a potent force capable of making the world a more just and beautiful place.”
Separately, the Grand Mufti of Syria, Ahmad Badreddin Hassou, has said he would like to attend the prayer vigil for peace in Rome on Saturday according to the Fides news agency.
He has instructed his community in Damascus to “welcome the appeal to pray for peace in Syria extended by the Pope to all religions.”
The mufti described Pope Francis as “a father who cares about the future of the Syrian people and wants to protect the whole Syrian society.”