Pope Francis has written to an eight-year-old boy who is about to embark on a pilgrimage to Lourdes.
The boy, Damian, wrote to the Pope inviting him to Lourdes to join children taking part in a “mission of peace”, sponsored by UNITALSI, an Italian organisation which helps sick people travel to shrines such as Lourdes.
The Pope replied to Damian’s request for a video message with a personal letter, published by Vatican Radio, which will be read during a Eucharistic procession at Lourdes on Wednesday, to mark the 10th Pilgrimage of Children on the Mission of Peace.
The Pope wrote that he was “spiritually close” to each child attending and that he would accompany them in prayer.
He wrote: “I want to tell you that I am accompanying you with prayer: know that I am spiritually close to each one of you, especially to you who are sick.
“With confidence, tell the Madonna and her son Jesus about your expectations, your hopes, your joys and your sufferings, and trust in the help of Jesus and the support of Mary.”
The text of the full letter, translated by Vatican Radio, is posted below.
Dear children on the Mission of Peace to Lourdes,
I know that your mission of peace brings you this year to the Sanctuary of Lourdes, to the feet of the Madonna, to request her protection. I am happy about your voyage, promoted by U.N.I.T.A.L.S.I., and I want to tell you that I am accompanying you with prayer: know that I am spiritually close to each one of you, especially, to you who are sick.
With confidence, tell the Madonna and her son Jesus about your expectations, your hopes, your joys and your sufferings, and trust in the help of Jesus and the support of Mary.
Your mission is both a prayer and a testimony: you show adults that children are able to pray, to love Jesus, the friend who never betrays, to help each other, to hope for a better future.
And in this moment in which we see so many young children who are attempting the voyages of hope, the Pope asks you to pray for them to the Madonna of Lourdes. I renew my greetings and my encouragement for each of you, and I ask you, please, to pray for me. I bless you from the heart.