The Global Fund for Forgotten People speaks to H.E Gian Luca Chiavari, General Coordinator of the Magistral Committee for the Pilgrimage to Lourdes of the Sovereign Order of Malta, on the occasion of its 57th Annual Pilgrimage.

Having visited Lourdes many times over the last five decades, what do you most look forward to each time? 

The reason that I have come to Lourdes with my family and with The Order of Malta on so many occasions is for the grace we receive from our Blessed Lady. It is a privilege to be in this special place and to witness the joy that the pilgrims share throughout their time in Lourdes.

Again, I have had the pleasure, along with my wife Elena, of being part of the Lourdes Magistral Committee in organising this year’s pilgrimage.

How does the Order of Malta work with officials in Lourdes? 

The Lourdes Magistral Committee works closely with the Hospitalite de Notre Dame de Lourdes, the Bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes, and the Rector of the Sanctuaries to coordinate the schedule for the Order of Malta Pilgrimage. The Lourdes Magistral Committee is also supported by the President and Vice-President of the French Association, H.E Count Thierry de Beaumont-Beynac and Alain de Quengo Tonquedec, Marquis of Crenolle.

Each year we aim to improve the experience for all of the pilgrims, with an emphasis on the comfort and enjoyment of our malades. This year the decision was made to shorten the time of Adoration to ensure that the malades were not outside for long periods of time, in the famously unpredictable weather in Lourdes.

What stood out for you in the 57th Annual Pilgrimage?

This year we welcomed over 7,000 participants, including 1,357 malades. H.M.E.H the Grand Master was pleased to welcome so many pilgrims to Lourdes this year, and was particularly pleased to be recognising the participation of many delegations for the first time, including groups and representatives from Albania, Ecuador, Iraq, Slovakia and Thailand.

Were there any other new additions to the International Pilgrimage?

This year in Lourdes we were very happy to welcome Cardinal Patronus of the Order of Malta, Cardinal Burke, who attended the medal ceremony for first time pilgrims with H.M.E.H The Grand Master, and celebrated the International Mass in the Basilica St Pie X.

Together with the Grand Master, Cardinal Burke, and members of the Sovereign Council, 28 Cardinals, Bishops and Archbishops, 200 priests and chaplains participated in this year’s pilgrimage. This year many of the delegations were able to hold individual Masses during the pilgrimage, which allowed for more flexibility with schedules, and for more Masses to be conducted in native languages.