Record number of Westminster pilgrims at Lourdes


 A record number of Londoners took part in the Westminster Diocesan pilgrimage to Lourdes last week. Headed by Cardinal Cormac and the diocesan Bishops, more than 1,200 pilgrims from the capital visited the shrine - an increase of 300 on last year. Teams of volunteer medical staff and Red Caps cared for the sick and disabled around the clock. There were also pilgrimages from Arundel and Brighton, Brentwood, Lancaster, Liverpool, Motherwell, the Order of Malta - about 4,000 in total - joining the international throng of around a quarter of a million. Westminster's pilgrimage director Fr Chris Vipers attributed the increase in numbers to the At Your Word Lord programme currently underway in the diocese. He said: "This has been a marvellous pilgrimage. Many are here for the first time and I am sure that is partly because the renewal programme is giving people a desire to deepen their spirituality." The week for most Westminster pilgrims began with a sunny open-air Mass at the Cathedral of the Trees. The diocese also met together for a number of other events - among them an evening gathering at the church of St Bernadette, a penitential service, Mass for the Anointing of the Sick, an all-night vigil at the Grotto (during which there was spectacular thunderstorm) and a Closing Mass. They also joined pilgrims from around the world in the Torchlight Procession where Westminster's choir, directed by Canon Pat Browne, joined other choirs to sing from the steps of the Basilica. The choirs from Westminster and Liverpool also sang during the huge International Mass at the St Pius X Basilica. Throughout the week, parish groups held their own smaller gatherings, praying the Stations of the Cross, visiting the Blessed Sacrament chapels, going to the baths, lighting candles, or simply sightseeing around the town and the nearby mountains. After midnight when the crowds had died down, some returned to the Grotto for a time of quiet prayer. More than six million pilgrims go to Lourdes each year. On Saturday Pope John Paul will be visiting the shrine. For more information, including live webcams, see: www.lourdes-france.org

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