Pope invited to make own pilgrimage to Lourdes

23rd April 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, April 22 (AFP) - Pope John Paul II, who turns 84 next month and suffers from Parkinson's disease, may make a pilgrimage to the French shrine at Lourdes in mid-August, French bishops said on Thursday.

PARIS, April 22 (AFP) - Pope John Paul II, who turns 84 next month and suffers from Parkinson's disease, may make a pilgrimage to the French shrine at Lourdes in mid-August, French bishops said on Thursday.

A delegation from the Vatican has already travelled to the shrine in southwestern France to "study the conditions in which this pilgrimage could take place", the episcopal conference said in a written statement.

The invitation by French bishops coincides with the 150th anniversary this year of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.

It "meets with the wish of the pope, who, elderly and ill, wishes to carry out this personal pilgrimage like many other ill people", the press service for the episcopal conference told AFP.

The Vatican never confirms the pope's movements when invitations are initially made. They are only announced when the plan is definite, about a month before the trip.

If confirmed, the trip to Lourdes would be a pilgrimage, the episcopal conference insisted, and not a pastoral or state visit.

Lourdes draws six million pilgrims a year, many of whom seek succour at a shrine set up in a grotto where, in 1858, a 14-year-old peasant girl said she saw apparitions of the Virgin Mary at the grotto of Massabielle telling her to drink from a spring she discovered there.

The apparition happened four years after Pope Pius IX solemnly proclaimed in 1854 the dogma of the Immaculate Conception which honors the conception of Mary in her mother's womb without original sin.

The pope visited Lourdes in 1983, and the possible trip there this year "around August 15", according to the statement, would mark his seventh visit to France.

© AFP

                                              Subject: French news

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