By editor - 08 September, 2016
The largest religious pilgrimage to leave Ireland annually is underway with eight full airplanes ferrying up to 2,000 Dublin pilgrims to Lourdes.
183 sick and elderly people are among those travelling to the French shrine.
All will have the support of nurses, doctors, priests, lay volunteers and young students.
The 67th Dublin Diocesan Pilgrimage group includes 45 nurses, 9 doctors, 130 secondary schools students from 21 different schools, 160 youth group members, 41 priests and 480 lay volunteers.
Following the opening Mass of the 2016 pilgrimage, the 2,000 participants in the Dublin pilgrimage will process from the Lourdes Grotto along a Way of Mercy and through the Holy Door at the shrine to mark the Jubilee Year of Mercy called by Pope Francis.
One of the features of the Jubilee Year 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.
Speaking ahead of departure, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin described Lourdes as “a place of mercy, where we learn mercy though seeing mercy and through being merciful.”
He said “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.”
Archbishop Martin said that 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 the pilgrimage, Fr Martin Noone, expressed a special word of welcome to the young people who have returned to volunteer againt 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.”
Fr Noone said that they choose to return year after year “is a real source of inspiration and I wish to express my gratitude to each of them.”
Dublin secondary school, St Paul’s 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.