Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro Valls issued a press statement today explaining that the Pope is making the trip to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.
That proclamation by Pope Pius IX took place on Dec. 8, 1854, with the dogmatic bull “Ineffabilis Deus.”
When the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Bernadette Soubirous in Lourdes on Feb. 11, 1858, she introduced herself as the “Immaculate Conception.”
French government sources say that President Jacques Chirac will welcome the Holy Father in Lourdes. The Pope last visited France in 1997 for World Youth Day.
John Paul II was the first Pope to visit Lourdes. He did so on Aug. 14-15, 1983, in the Holy Year of the Redemption.
A detailed program of the visit is yet to be announced. Press sources have reported that the Holy Father will stay in the Notre Dame Residence, a center that accommodates sick and disabled pilgrims.