The Order of Malta’s 65th international pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes, France, begins today. Leading the pilgrimage is Grand Master Fra’ John Dunlap, in his first official engagement after his very recent election by the Council Complete of State. Many of the Capitulars travelled to Lourdes directly from Rome.
This traditional appointment of the Order’s members and volunteers to accompany our Lords the Sick to the Grotto of Massabielle is taking place for the second consecutive time after the forced hiatus in 2020 and 2021, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
This year the number of participants has almost returned to pre-pandemic levels: there are over 6,000 participants, including sick people, members, volunteers, a clear sign of faith and hope. The pilgrims coming to Lourdes are of 41 different nationalities, with a large participation from the Far East, in particular from Hong Kong, Singapore, the Philippines and Australia. Pilgrims and sick people are also arriving from South America and Africa, and of course from Europe. The largest groups are from France (1,300), Italy (1,200) and the USA (1,000).
Ambassador Stefano Palumbo joined the 65th pilgrimage as a stretcher bearer. A group of Albanian volunteers lead by Dr. Maranaj Marku of the Albanian Organization of the Order of Malta, joined the pilgrimage as well.
Of the 6,000 participants, there are 1,077 sick people, of whom 201 are children under the age of 12; 191 priests, 14 deacons, 878 pilgrims, 228 doctors, 135 nurses.
Sunday’s Pontifical Mass will be celebrated by Cardinal Silvano Maria Tomasi, the Pope’s Special Delegate to the Order of Malta. The Marian pilgrimage will be attended, in addition to the Grand Master, by members of the Sovereign Council and the Prelate, Monsignor Jean Laffitte.