Order of Malta returns to Lourdes following hiatus during pandemic
The Sanctuary at Lourdes, France has reopened and been made ready for pilgrims after being closed for two years due to Covid-19.
In the first weekend of May, the first large scale pilgrimage group to return to Lourdes was the Order of Malta for their 64th International Pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady and included eleven members of the Order of Malta in Australia.
Whilst the number of participants was lower than pre-pandemic pilgrimages, it was still considerable including some 3,000 pilgrims from 31 countries. The Australian contingent was organised and led by Dunstan de Souza. It included the Order of Malta Australian President, the Hon James Douglas, and Magistral Chaplain Fr Paul Nulley. As with previous pilgrimages, members and volunteers of the Order of Malta accompanied ‘malades’ (the sick), with the Australians providing support to the Western (US) Association.
Lourdes appears to be ‘back to business’ with very few changes post pandemic. The Order of Malta pilgrimage, that spanned across five days, was able to include a Pontifical Mass, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and a candlelight Marian procession – all attended by thousands, continuing an annual tradition that started in 1958.
The Pontifical Mass on the Sunday was concelebrated by Cardinal Silvano Maria Tomasi, the Pope’s special delegate to the Order of Malta, Monsignor Jean Laffitte, Prelate of the Order and 100 chaplains of the Order. The Order’s Lieutenant of the Grand Master and members of their Sovereign Council were amongst those who participated in the Marian pilgrimage.
For the Australians in attendance, comprising both first-time attendees and seasoned pilgrims, it was a joyful and spiritually uplifting experience.
“A pilgrimage to Lourdes represents one of the most significant moments in the spiritual life of the Order’s members and volunteers” explained Australian Association President, the Hon James Douglas. “Members are expected to attend the Order’s pilgrimage at least once, however many find the pilgrimage so enriching that they attend annually. It is with great joy that we were able to return this year.”
Fr Paul Nulley commented: “It was a gathering of members throughout the world to care for the sick in the presence of Our Lady. I witnessed how Lourdes gives concrete expression to the Order’s spirituality. The pilgrimage was an opportunity for me to understand how I contribute to the overall mission of the Order. I met fellow chaplains from across the world and saw something of the catholicity and global reach of the Order”.
For Australians unable to visit Lourdes, the Order of Malta ‘brings Lourdes to Australia’ at their Lourdes Day Mass celebrations held annually in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide. Those who attend these special celebrations, including malades from Australia, receive a blessing for good health and a bottle of Lourdes water for their personal use.