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A Gathering for Peace

From 12th – 14th May 2023, The International Military Pilgrimage (PMI) is organising its 63rd pilgrimage to Lourdes, under the leadership of Mgr. Antoine de Romanet, bishop of the French Armed Forces. Every May, in Lourdes, the Bishop of the French Armed Forces brings together the great international military family, the “sentinels of peace” according to Saint John Paul II.

In Lourdes this year, the PMI will be bringing together 14,000 pilgrims from 40 nations, gathered as a sign of peace and goodwill. The PMI works to bear God’s Mercy in the military world and to support the wounded.

This three-day pilgrimage enables Armed Forces personnel and their families to meet Christ, through the Virgin Mary, at the school of Saint Bernadette. It is an opportunity for many pilgrims to receive the sacraments of reconciliation, baptism, Eucharist, confirmation, and the sacrament of the sick.

Punctuated by celebrations in the basilicas, the military pilgrimage is also synonymous with friendly sporting challenges between the armed forces: each year, sports tournaments allow the wounded and disabled to mingle with their teammates, to share time in friendship and to rise above their handicaps.

International Military Pilgrimage 2023 programme

FRIDAY 12th MAY 2023
9:15 a.m. Opening Mass France (Saint Pius X)
11:45 a.m. International military ceremony (Rosary Esplanade)
2:00 p.m. Route to Bartrès
3:00 p.m. Espélugues Stations of the Cross
3:30 p.m. International conference for officers (Sainte Bernadette Hemicycle)
7:30 p.m. Opening of the International Camp
9:00 p.m. International opening ceremony (Saint Pius X)

SATURDAY 13th MAY 2023
10:00 a.m. Mass for Christian Initiation (Saint Bernadette)
12 noon Photos by armies of the French delegation (Rosary Esplanade)
2:00 p.m. In the footsteps of Bernadette
2:00 p.m. Espélugues Stations of the Cross
2:00 p.m. International challenge for the injured and able-bodied (Sanctuary prairie)
2:00 p.m. Music Festival (City of Lourdes)
5:00 p.m. Eucharistic procession
9:00 p.m. Marian procession

SUNDAY 14th MAY 2023
9:30 a.m. International Mass (Saint Pius X)
11:30 a.m. Photo of heads of delegation with flags (Rosary Esplanade)
2:30 p.m. Farewell (Saint Pius X)
8:30 p.m. German concert (Saint Bernadette)
9:00 p.m. Italian concert (Saint Pius X)
In bold: international programme

This 63rd pilgrimage will mark the 60th anniversary of the Élysée Treaty, which sealed a reconciliation between France and Germany, after the succession of wars between the two founding countries of the European Union.

The PMI was born out of one of the most traumatic events of the 20th century: the Second World War. The first survivors of the frontline came to the Grotto in 1944 to give thanks to the Blessed Virgin. Little by little, German soldiers, among them internees from nearby prison camps, joined them. The first military pilgrimages were organised in 1945 to re-establish an understanding between two broken armies. From 1958, German and French chaplains invited soldiers from all over the world to Lourdes for a few days, to celebrate fraternity and peace in this most holiest of places.

An atmosphere full of colour and music

This pilgrimage is also renowned for its music: the music festival, which takes place throughout the city on Saturday afternoon, enables everyone to discover the unique repertoire of each army, each battalion or country, played by professional or amateur brass bands. The music is sometimes interrupted by acapella singing to the rhythmic marching beat.

The international military pilgrimage also brings with it a wide range of colourful and shimmering uniforms, headdresses, hats, boots, decorations, insignia or banners. Parade dress uniforms are often rich in centuries of history or at the cutting edge of technology. From the yellow-striped Vatican Swiss Guards to the large white berets of the Alpine hunters to the traditional khaki camouflage outfits, every colour under the sun can be seen on dress uniforms during ceremonies and official gatherings.

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