Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People
People on the Move
N° 107 (Suppl.), August 2008
Vatican Radio Interviews
Archbishop Agostino Marchetto
1. What message do you want to launch with this Congress?
The Congress has, as its theme, Pilgrimages and Shrines, Paths of Peace and Spaces of Mercy. It is our goal to launch a message of peace that can be spread through the paths of the pilgrimages and shrines. Peace is a precious good, an objective that is won day after day through an effort on everyone’s part in terms of friendship, solidarity, understanding and charity. During the course of the Congress, there will be reflection and discussion on how pilgrimages and shrines can also support and animate the path of peace “concretely”.
2. Today so many people are rediscovering the pilgrimage…
It is true. The pilgrimage is an ancient path of prayer that is experiencing a new dawning today characterized by great dynamism. Information reaches us from many parts of the world about more and more pilgrims who are setting out to express their religiosity. In fact, while faith is undermined by widespread materialism, there is a revival of this religious practice with different connotations and objectives. As some examples, I mention the host of young people at the World Days, the unending flow of people to Peter’s chair, the ever fascinating Way of Santiago, and the ancient Via Francigena.
3. How can you keep the pilgrimage from being an exterior practice and make it instead a source of conversion?
Our Congress on peace wants to offer new stimuli and pastoral resources to help believers who, enlightened by faith, feel the desire to discover the face of God and purify their consciences. This involves spiritual accompaniment on the pilgrimage and adequate welcome in the shrines so that in recollection and interior silence, pilgrims can hear the voice of God speaking to them. In this way, pilgrims can have a deep experience of His love in Christ, from which springs the desire to convert their hearts to mercy and piety.
4. A pilgrimage is also an occasion to meet people from other cultures…
On a pilgrimage, people of different cultures meet and, side by side, follow an itinerary of prayer together. The pastoral agents can help the pilgrims to be in syntony with one another by respecting the identity of others and indeed by encouraging reciprocal communication. We know in fact that from the encounter with and knowledge about other cultures, the bases can be set for a peaceful cohabitation.
5. The Congress takes place in Lourdes in the context of the 150th anniversary of Our Lady’s apparitions…
The Congress will take place in Lourdes in a period of great ferment in view of the celebrations for the 150th anniversary of Our Lady’s apparitions to Bernadette. It was on the occasion of the 17th apparition, on March 25, 1858, that Mary revealed herself to that young woman as the Immaculate Conception, the dogma proclaimed in 1854. Bernadette was surprised by a mystery greater than herself, but to which she reacted with docility. We too are invited to let ourselves be surprised by God and led by Grace, through the intercession of Mary Immaculate.