The grotto at Lourdes where Our Lady appeared. Credit: Alessio Di Cintio/CNA
Pope Francis called an Italian cardinal heading to Lourdes on pilgrimage Monday to ask for his prayers at the shrine for himself and “for some situations to be resolved.”
According to the vicar general of Rome, Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, Pope Francis called him early in the morning Aug. 24 before De Donatis left on a flight for a pilgrimage to Lourdes.
“He told me to bless you all and to pray for him. He insistently asked for prayers for some situations to be resolved and said to entrust him to Our Lady,” the cardinal told journalists and others aboard the flight from Rome Aug. 24.
De Donatis is leading the diocesan pilgrimage to Lourdes after recovering from the coronavirus this spring. The 185 pilgrims include 40 priests and four bishops, as well as several healthcare workers who helped treat De Donatis when he was sick with the virus.
The four days at the shrine are “therefore, setting out on the journey, in a situation of precariousness, of limitation, to again rediscover the beauty of pilgrimage,” he said, “and of living entrustment to Immaculate Mary, bringing to her the whole situation we are experiencing.”
De Donatis made a full recovery from COVID-19 after contracting the virus at the end of March. He spent 11 days at Rome’s Gemelli Hospital before being discharged to finish healing at home.
A diocesan press statement called it “the first pilgrimage in the time of pandemic: a journey of thanksgiving and entrustment to the Virgin Mary, who has accompanied and inspired the diocese’s prayer since the beginning of the lockdown.”
The pilgrimage to Lourdes is an annual tradition of the Diocese of Rome. Because fewer people are able to be present in France this year, many of the pilgrimage events will be livestreamed on social media, including on the EWTN Vatican Facebook page, for people who want to “join” from home. The final Mass of the pilgrimage will also be broadcast live on Italian TV.
The livestreams “will be an opportunity to bring to the Grotto of the apparitions those who cannot physically be there, perhaps because they are elderly or sick, but who will thus be able to live this experience in communion with the other faithful,” according to Fr. Walter Insero, communications director of the Diocese of Rome.
“We can thank him for protecting our lives, but also ask for help for all our needs, as well as delivering all the people we care about into his hands,” he continued. “Let’s give our city an opportunity to strengthen trust and hope, to feel comforted and reassured, to grow in a true sense of solidarity.”
During the first part of Italy’s lockdown for COVID-19, and prior to contracting the virus himself, De Donatis had been saying a daily livestreamed Mass for an end to the pandemic from Rome’s Sanctuary of Divine Love.
A few days before he was discharged from the hospital, the cardinal wrote a message to the Catholics of Rome to assure them his condition was not severe.
“All my gratitude goes to the doctors, nurses, and all the health personnel of the Agostino Gemelli Hospital who are taking care of me and many other patients with great competence and showing a profound humanity, animated by the feelings of the Good Samaritan,” he wrote.
The Diocese of Rome is also organising pilgrimages to the Holy Land and to Fatima in September and October.