LOURDES, France, AUG. 16, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The Marian shrine of Lourdes is a second home for the bishops of France, according to the archbishop of Toulouse.
Archbishop Robert Jean Louis Le Gall, speaking at a Mass held at the shrine’s grotto on Wednesday, the feast of the Assumption, said that “the French bishops, in particular, love to return to Lourdes.”
He confirmed that Benedict XVI accepted the bishops’ invitation to visit Lourdes as part of the celebrations marking 150 years since Bernadette Soubirous witnessed the 18 apparitions of the Virgin Mary in the French town from Feb. 11 to July 16, 1858. No date has been announced for the visit.
Archbishop Le Gall said in his homily that even though “the signs seen by St. Bernadette have ceased, Our Lady continues to visit this site of the Immaculate Conception to which we are ever attached.”
The 61-year-old archbishop said that the French bishops’ conference has held its plenary assembly in Lourdes twice, and that the bishops “will also return here for diocesan pilgrimages” throughout the Jubilee year.
“Archbishop Jacques Perrier of Tarbes and Lourdes has welcomed us by saying that Lourdes is the second residence for bishops,” he added.
The jubilee year commemorating the apparitions, with the theme of “The Church in Mission Nourished by the Eucharist,” will commence Dec. 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception.
Bishop Perrier has invited all of the ecclesial communities to place themselves under the patronage of Our Lady of Lourdes, the Immaculate Conception and St. Bernadette, and to unite in praying the preparation prayer for the 150th anniversary of the apparitions.
The bishop of Lourdes declared: “You are all members of the grand family of Lourdes. Wherever you are, recite the preparation prayer for the Jubilee. You will form with us a community of intercontinental Marian prayer.”