John Paul II Grateful for Lourdes Pilgrimage

Expresses Thanks to the Virgin Mary

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CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 18, 2004 ( John Paul II expressed gratitude for being able to make a pilgrimage to Lourdes last weekend, on the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.

At the end of today’s general audience, held at the papal summer residence, the Pope said in French: «This morning, I wish to thank God, in his goodness, for having permitted me to go on pilgrimage to Lourdes.»

«I thank the Blessed Virgin for the atmosphere of profound recollection and intense prayer of this meeting, recalling with emotion the multitude of pilgrims, among whom, in the front line, were the sick who came to seek consolation and hope near Our Lady,» he told the 3,000 people on hand.

«May all the young people present remember this pilgrimage and find the strength to become free men and women in Christ,» he said, summarizing the message he gave in the shrine’s field, during the solemn Mass that culminated his 104th international apostolic trip.

The Holy Father was grateful for the reception he received from Bishop Jacques Perrier of Tarbes and Lourdes. He also thanked the organizers and the French authorities, specifically President Jacques Chirac, who welcomed him at the airport.

John Paul II, who appeared to have recovered from his trip to France, thanked his compatriots in Polish for supporting him with their prayers «during my pilgrimage to Lourdes.»

«I have asked you for your prayers since the first day of the pontificate,» he said, «and I know that I can always count on you.»

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