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Bishop McKeown and 365 pilgrims visit Lourdes

By Sarah Mac Donald - 02 July, 2014

Bishop Donal McKeown (2)Bishop Donal McKeown and 365 pilgrims from Derry have flown into Lourdes for the Bishop’s first visit to the Marian Shrine as leader of the Church in his new diocese.

The Derry pilgrimage group includes 70 young people and 78 registered sick, with a full medical team.

The Derry pilgrims will be in Lourdes from 1 – 6 July and the theme for the 2014 pilgrimage is ‘The joy of conversion’.

A pilgrim group from Derry was on the first Irish national pilgrimage to Lourdes in 1913.

Speaking ahead of his departure on Tuesday, Bishop McKeown said, “I, along with many of our group, have just completed a three-day pilgrimage to Lough Derg.”

“This was an important part of our prayerful preparation for Lourdes. Our annual pilgrimage to the Marian Shrine is an important element in helping us rediscover the joy of both conversion and mission.”

He said that as the group departed for Lourdes he was reminded of the words of Pope Francis in his message for the World Day of the Sick on 11 February last, the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.

In his message, the Pope said, “The Church recognises in you, the sick, a special presence of the suffering Christ. It is true.  At the side of – and indeed within – our suffering, is the suffering of Christ; he bears its burden with us and he reveals its meaning.”

The Pope continued, “When the Son of God mounted the cross, he destroyed the solitude of suffering and illuminated its darkness. We thus find ourselves before the mystery of God’s love for us, which gives us hope and courage: hope, because in the plan of God’s love even the night of pain yields to the light of Easter, and courage, which enables us to confront every hardship in his company, in union with him.”

Bishop Donal McKeown was installed as the Bishop of Derry on 6 April 2014.

The Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes takes place each year on 11 February. On this day in 1858 Our Lady first appeared to the fourteen year old Bernadette Soubirous in Lourdes.

The Blessed Virgin Mary said to Bernadette “I am the Immaculate Conception”. In 1992 Saint John Paul II instituted the World Day of the Sick to be held annually on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.

The 2014 message of the Holy Father, Pope Francis, for the 22nd World Day of the Sick was Faith and Charity: “We ought to lay down our lives for one another” (1 Jn 3:16).

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