More than 1,600 disabled children with their helpers, medical staff and chaplains gather in Lourdes for annual pilgrimage

More than 1,600 disabled children with their helpers, medical staff and chaplains gathered in Lourdes last month for the 56th annual pilgrimage of HCPT ­– The Pilgrimage Trust.

Most were from Britain and Ireland, but groups joined from as far afield as Croatia, the United States and the West Indies. All were dressed in group colours and were easily recognisable around the town, singing with great gusto such HCPT favourites as “Rise and Shine” and “Jesus, we love you deep down in our hearts”.

Cardinal Seán Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, led the annual trust Mass in the underground basilica, which was organised by the Irish groups. The music was coordinated by Fr Richard Scriven of Ossory Diocese and there were cheers as Irish dancers unfolded a white cloth on the altar during the Offertory. Other bishops present included Kieran Conry, bishop of Arundel and Brighton, and Bishop Tom Burns of Menevia.

The Mass saw a procession of more than 200 priests and as many banners, displaying Our Lady, rainbows, stars and candles. HCPT – The Pilgrimage Trust is the biggest children’s pilgrimage to Lourdes from Britain, and attracts thousands of young helpers who are committed to ensuring their even younger charges have a wonderful faith experience. Thousands around the world watched the Mass broadcast live over the internet via the Lourdes and HCPT websites.

Cardinal Brady said he was “very excited to be coming once again on this great pilgrimage”. He added that he had given considerable thought to discovering a common bond between the three big events of the week that he would be attending: the HCPT pilgrimage, the royal wedding and the beatification of Pope John Paul II. All would be celebrations in a religious place bringing together big crowds but the common bond, he said, was the “bond of love”.

He hoped the experience of the HCPT pilgrimage would “send us home determined to show that love to others”.