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Military pilgrimage to Lourdes is ‘experience of fraternity,’ military bishop says

OSV News
OSV News
OSV News is a national and international wire service reporting on Catholic issues and issues that affect Catholics, in accordance with Catholic teaching.
military pilgrimage - The catholic weekly
Military members from over 40 nations gather in prayer for the Marian procession during the 62nd International Military Pilgrimage in Lourdes, France, 14 May, 2022. (OSV News photo/Tamino Petelinsek, courtesy Knights of Columbus)

Nearly 15,000 military personnel from some 40 countries will have gathered at the French Marian sanctuary in Lourdes 24-26 May for the International Military Pilgrimage.

After the Bastille Day celebration 14 July, France’s biggest national holiday, the Lourdes military pilgrimage is the most important gathering of its kind for the army.

Bishop Antoine de Romanet, military bishop of the French armed forces, presides over this extraordinary pilgrimage every year. “(There are) thousands of soldiers in various uniforms, with the flags and musical groups of their countries, numerous chiefs of staff and general officers, ministers, ambassadors and some 20 bishops. Members of London’s Buckingham Palace Guard and even the Vatican’s Swiss Guards can be seen,” the bishop said.

The pilgrimage includes moments of recollection, ceremonies, prayers and processions, and this year Bishop de Romanet will celebrate 150 baptisms and 300 confirmations.

During World War II, members of the French military visited the site of St Bernadette’s apparitions to pray for peace. After the war, French soldiers and their chaplains invited German soldiers and their chaplains to gather to pray together.

The first international military pilgrimage happened in 1958. Until now, American veterans of the Second World War have taken part every year, brought along by the Knights of Columbus. There will be none this year, as it’s too demanding for them to travel to Europe.

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