Lourdes to Receive Maronite Patriarch of Antioch

LOURDES, France, SEPT. 6, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Rai of Antioch and of the whole of the East will visit the Marian shrine in Lourdes for the feast of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, which is celebrated Sept. 8.

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The Maronite patriarch will be received at the airport by civil and religious authorities on Thursday, and will then travel to the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary. There, he will presided at an 11:15 a.m. Mass.

In the afternoon, he will visit the Town Hall of Lourdes, where elected local officials and parliamentarians will hear him speak about the realities of interreligious dialogue as it is lived in the Lebanon.

After a visit to the parish Church of the Sacred Heart, he will close the day by taking part in a torch-lit Marian procession, with representatives of the local Lebanese community.

The patriarch will depart Lourdes on Friday, after having visited the Notre Dame Hospitality Center in the Shrine, where very sick and handicapped persons are housed.

Lourdes is a particularly beloved place of pilgrimage for Eastern Christians of the East. In 2006, for example, Armenian Catholic Patriarchate of Cilicia, visited the site. Last February, a group of Iraqis who had been wounded during an attack on their cathedral in Baghdad visited the shrine.

In May 2008, the Beth Maryam house — located near the shrine — was inaugurated. The house represents the profound spiritual bonds that unite Lourdes to the East. 

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