In a unique ceremony to mark the Jubilee year of Mercy called by Pope Francis, almost 1,000 pilgrims from the Diocese of Meath have processed through a Holy Door of Mercy at Lourdes in France this week (12 – 17 September 2016).

The group travelled to the Marian Shrine in the south west of France, led by Bishop Michael Smith.

Sick and elderly people are among the pilgrims in Lourdes, some who are highly dependent, but each person has an extraordinary level of support – with nurses, doctors, priests, lay volunteers and young students all travelling to help. Among the pilgrim group are 50 nurses, 5 doctors, 70 brancardiers, 60 hand maids, 20 priests, 25 members of the diocesan youth group, together with 15 students from Belvedere College, Dublin.

One of the features of the Jubilee Year of Mercy is the granting of an indulgence once you have crossed through a Holy Door and have fulfilled one of the other conditions, which includes caring for the sick.

Following the opening Mass of the pilgrimage, the large Meath group processed from the world famous Grotto along a Way of Mercy and through the Holy Door at Lourdes.

Several of the youth pilgrims in Lourdes this week took part in the World Youth Day pilgrimage last month.  “This experience in Lourdes is very different” Odhran Daly from Kilbeggan said. “In Poland we were surrounded by youth from all over the world.  In Lourdes we see a different face of humanity, a different face of Christ, and it’s a blessing to be here”.