Vatican health minister, hospital chaplains on pilgrimage to Lourdes

.- Members of the Pontifical Council for Health Care and a diverse group of hospital chaplains from all over the globe are on pilgrimage to the French towns of Lourdes and Ars this week. The journey of “prayer and renewal” is just the latest initiative promoted by the pontifical council in its jubilee year.

Led by the Vatican “health minister,” Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, who is the president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care (PCHC), the group began their route of reflection, spiritual growth and prayer on Wednesday. Other leaders in Church health ministry, a mariologist and 70 hospital chaplains from 12 countries representing almost every continent are also taking part.

Archbishop Zimowski explained in a statement that the aim of the pilgrimage is “prayer and renewal of the common pastoral commitment to the service of Jesus dead and risen and of his Church, through the treatment and pastoral assistance of the sick and suffering.”

The group has been in Lourdes for the first two days of the trip, but on Friday members will be in Ars, the French town where St. Jean Vianney carried out his ministry. St. Jean is the patron of the ongoing Year for Priests, which will end on June 19, 2010.

The trip is taking place during the 25th anniversary of the Council’s founding and the 150th year since St. Vianney’s birth, events that Archbishop Zimowski described as of “great importance” in germinating the current pilgrimage.

The coincidence of these celebrations, he said, has “driven our Pontifical Council to organize several initiatives to revive our commitment to deepening (our) biblical, theological, spiritual and pastoral motivations ..." This renewal should take into account "the tasks to which we are called and the final orientation of our projects and our actions to better face present and future challenges,” he added.

The major celebration to mark the Council's jubilee took place over three days in February, coinciding with the 18th World Day for the Sick. Events during the celebration included an art exhibition focused principally on PCHC founder Pope John Paul II, an international symposium examining the Apostolic Letter “Salvifici Doloris” and the council-founding Motu Proprio “Dolentium Hominum” and a procession of St. Bernadette’s relics to St. Peter’s, followed by Mass presided over by Pope Benedict XVI.

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