In less than 24 hours the Holy Father will visit the Marian shrine at Lourdes for the second time of his pontificate in order to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. He is expected to be received by 400,000 faithful who have flocked to the town to join him in his two-day pilgrimage.
This will be the Pope’s 8th trip to France, the country he has visited more than any other besides his native Poland which he has visited 9 times.
The Pope will arrive in Lourdes at 11am Saturday morning, will be welcomed by French president Jacques Chirac in the airport, and will go directly to the grotto at Massiabelle in which the Virgin Mary appeared to St. Bernadette, where he will drink from the spring water.
The Pope will head from there to the Notre Dame home for pilgims who suffer from illness. He will spend the night there in the facility which will be hosting hundreds of other pilgrims as well.
At 5.30pm the Pope will return to the Grotto to lead a prayer service followed by a procession to the Lourdes basilica praying the Luminous mysteries of the Rosary.
There will be a torchlight procession from the balcony of the Pope’s apartment at 9.30pm, which will be his last public appearance of the day.
On Sunday morning the Pope will preside at the Mass celebrating the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, will have lunch with a group of French bishops, and finally will return to the grotto for a time of private personal prayer.
The Holy Father will leave Lourdes for Rome at 6.45pm.