Dear brothers and sisters, dear friends,
I am delighted to be able to say a few words to you at the end of this liturgical celebration which allowed us to pray together, to give thanks together and to remember in prayer all those who visit and work in the sanctuary.
I am happy to take part in this celebration which is just one of the many Masses celebrated every day at the shrine where pilgrims from all over the world, here either for a day or for a longer period, meet to celebrate the risen Christ. This is the heart of my ministry.
I wanted the washing of the feet at the beginning of this Mass to be a powerful sign, because I strongly believe that I exercise my authority only as a service. Christ was never so much Lord and Master as when he sat at the feet of his disciples to fulfil a gesture that, at the time, was undertaken only by the humblest of servants. And he invites us to do the same: “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”
We live out this service in welcoming the pilgrims which is our shared mission, whether we are employees, volunteers, priests, or laity, in the sanctuary, in the Hospitality, in the Cité Saint-Pierre or in one of the numerous other places which are related to us. Pilgrims are our raison d’être, and especially the most vulnerable and most humble among them, the sick and the disabled and those most bruised by life. All the pilgrimages that come here demonstrate this welcome which is a concrete sign for our time. This is the first mission of the Church, embodying the charity of Christ in concrete gestures, advancing the Gospel of Christ, which is read in this sanctuary with an open heart, and offering consolation through the sacraments that are celebrated each day. May we be truly committed to always having the pilgrims at the forefront of our minds. Even if we are not in direct contact with them, they are here. We do not work without foundation, in any old organisation, but in this sanctuary brought to life by the spirit of Lourdes, where we are all enlightened by the smile of Mary. I thank from the bottom of my heart the employees and volunteers of the Hospitality and the Shrine who wanted to be present at this Mass. Their presence touches me profoundly and inspires me, giving me the grace to be a priest for a people.
We do and we can show this service between ourselves, in our common desire to work together, to live in communion with each other, in a true generosity of spirit. I wish to be a servant of our communion, because it is at the heart of the life of the Church, because without it, nothing beautiful and great can succeed. This mutual service is an invitation and a call. Never let it stand still or be extinguished.
It has been three weeks since I arrived here, in this land of Bigorre. I was happy yesterday to be able to concelebrate Mass during the pilgrimage of this diocese which I now think of as a little bit mine. I want to say to the priests of Tarbes and Lourdes how much I am looking forward to discovering, with them, the richness of the history of this Church, how much I am looking forward to carrying out, with them and all the laity who devote themselves to it, the mission to announce the Gospel in this land. Our sanctuary is not without foundation but is implanted in this land and it radiates far beyond this city, in France and in the whole world. It is not a fortress closed in on itself but a place where each person is welcomed as they are, where dialogue with everyone is the norm.
With respect and in friendship, I reiterate to the representatives of the city whom I have had the opportunity to meet, my desire to work together. I want to greet, once again, the traders near the sanctuary, whom I have had the great pleasure of meeting in recent weeks. I would also like to greet the hoteliers who contribute to the success of the pilgrimages; I am sure that we will have the opportunity to establish bonds of trust and friendship. I am looking forward to us having fruitful and rich dialogues with each other, in an a priori generosity of spirit which is so important to me. Beyond our potential differences, may we never forget what unites us: serving our pilgrims.
I am very happy to be surrounded today by my fellow chaplains. I now wear this cross of the Lourdes chaplains. It is a beautiful sign that I would like us to bring with us to all the avenues that we will be exploring together. Thank you for your kind welcome. As I have already told you, I feel good to be among you all you, in the heart of this community of communities where wealth does not depend on our differences but once again on the communion which enables us to accept them. Our mission is a magnificent one and I witness to the fervour with which we carry it out. I pray that everyone will find their joy. I also count on your prayer. I am not forgetting Father Cabes in my prayers. He loves this sanctuary so much. He loves Mary so much. After these years of splendid service as Rector, I wish him much joy and peace in the new ministry entrusted to him.
Thank you to Msgr. HÉROUARD for his confidence and his brotherly friendship that the years only strengthen. He knows how much of a joy it is for us to be able to all work together so that Lourdes may radiate far and wide. I would also like to send friendly and brotherly wishes this morning to Bishop BROUWET and his predecessors who were eager to enable the sanctuary to meet all the challenges that arose.
My friends, now that I have discovered more about what is happening in Lourdes, I am deeply convinced that here is a source of incredible hope for our time. Lourdes is prophetic. Lourdes is a humble and radiant sign, because Lourdes has its source in Mary’s meeting with Bernadette, which is simply an illustration of God’s encounter with humanity. I am grateful to those who have entrusted me with driving and taking responsibility for what is happening in the sanctuary. I will do it with the help of all those who want to walk with me, and I entrust myself humbly but insistently to your prayer.
Mgr Olivier Ribadeau Dumas,
Rector of the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes