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Archbishop Vincent Nichols welcomes Westminster pilgrims to Lourdes

Archbishop Vincent Nichols has today, Monday 27 July 2009, celebrated the opening Mass of the Diocese of Westminster's 2009 Pilgrimage to Lourdes in the Underground Basilica. 

This is the first year Archbishop Vincent  has led the Diocese of Westminster's Pilgrimage to Lourdes, and follows his Installation as the Eleventh Archbishop of Westminster in May 2009.

During his homily the Archbishop welcomed all the pilgrims and expressed thanks that so many were able to come this year. He opened the Mass by praying that the week would be dedicated to the Lord and intercession of Mary.

He said: "We have come to meet the Lord, but over the course of the week, you will find that the Lord will come to you. Each time we go out, from our hotel room, from the churches, from the Grotto, we can know that God is coming to meet us. It may be in the smile of another person, in the gentleness of a person that we didn't expect, in the stories that we hear. God will be there in the kindness that we receive when we are upset or tired."

"It isn't always obvious how God comes to us, but that is our task for this pilgrimage; to sense and be ready to respond to the Lord when he comes to us. That is what happened to Bernadette. She was going to collect firewood, but at the prompting of Mary came to a life of great closeness to the Lord. We too can learn from Mary to be attentive, to listen to the prompting of the Lord."

"A pilgrimage is like life in miniature. What happens on a pilgrimage teaches us about our lives; the gifts that we receive here we try and put into practice elsewhere in our lives. So a pilgrimage is a workshop for life for it is here that we renew our faith."

During the opening Mass, Fr Denis Touw, the Pilgrimage Director, welcomed the Archbishop saying: "We are delighted to have Archbishop Vincent Nichols with us during this pilgrimage. On behalf of everyone I express our warmest welcome to him."

The Mass was attended by over 800 pilgrims who have travelled to Lourdes with the diocese. Pilgrims include 230 Redcaps, (youth volunteers from schools and colleges across the Diocese), 30 Priests, 2 Permanent Deacons, 130 sick pilgrims and 64 pilgrims from the St Joseph's Pastoral Centre, which is entrusted with the support of people with learning
disabilities in the Diocese of Westminster. The pilgrimage runs from Sunday 26 - Friday 31 July 2009.

 To keep up with the pilgrims read the online blog at www.rcdow.org.uk/lourdes/blog