Papal Visit to France, 2008
Pope Benedict XVI
The Holy Father paid his first Pastoral Visit to France, 12 - 15 September 2008, (his tenth Pastoral Visit outside Italy) on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the Blessed Virgin Mary's apparitions to St. Bernadette in Lourdes.

1. Holy Father Answers Questions of Journalists
During the flight to Paris, 12 September, France, the Holy Father answered the questions of journalists on the Papal plane. Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., Director of the Holy See Press Office, presented the questions to the Pope on the journalists behalf.

2. At Élysée Palace, Paris
After a two-hour flight he arrived at Paris' Orly International Airport. Upon landing the Pope was driven to the Apostolic Nunciature in Paris where he was staying and then to the Élysée Palace for the welcome ceremony and a courtesy Visit to President Nicolas Sarkozy.

3. Meeting with Jewish Delegation
On Friday afternoon, 12 September, the Holy Father met with representatives of the Jewish Community, some of whom were introduced to him by Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, Archbishop of Paris, at the Apostolic Nunciature.

4. On the Development of Christianity and Culture in Europe
On Friday afternoon, 12 September, the Holy Father was driven to the College des Bernardins. Seven hundred representatives of the world of French culture had gathered in the Hall, together with several UNESCO and EU leaders and several representatives of the Muslim community in France.

5. Vespers at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, Paris
On Friday evening, 12 September, the Holy Father went to Paris' famous Cathedral of Notre-Dame to celebrate Vespers of the Blessed Virgin Mary with the clergy, men and women religious, seminarians and deacons of France.

6. Address to Youth on Cathedral Square
12 September [2008], after presiding at the celebration of Vespers at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, the Holy Father greeted thousands of young people on the Cathedral square, many of whom had taken part in the World Youth Day in Sydney.

7. Visit to the Institut de France
On Saturday morning, 13 September, the Holy Father was driven to the "Institut de France", representative of all the branches of knowledge and home to five academies. The Pontiff entered the Hall of the "Coupole", where the members of the five academies had gathered to meet him.

8. Papal Mass Celebrated on the Esplanade des Invalides
Following his brief visit to the "Institut de France" [13 September], the Holy Father went in the Popemobile to the "Esplanade des Invalides." The Church of Saint Louis des Invalides is the cathedral of the Military Ordinary. Here the Holy Father presided at Mass on the Esplanade.

9. To Pilgrims in Torchlight Procession at Lourdes
On Saturday afternoon, 13 September, the Holy Father was driven to Paris-Orly International Airport for his trip to Lourdes. After visiting several sites associated with St. Bernadette, the Pope watched the torchlight procession, as it wound through Lourdes from the Grotto of the Apparitions and across the Prairie to arrive in front of the Basilica where the the Holy Father awaited them. He then spoke to the pilgrims.

10. Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross
On Sunday morning, 14 September, the Holy Father went to the Prairie of Lourdes to preside at Holy Mass for the 150th anniversary of the apparitions. In his homily, the Pope reflected on the Marian apparitions and the meaning of the Cross.

11. Angelus: Mary's Freedom and Purity
On Sunday morning, 14 September, after presiding at Holy Mass on the Prairie at Lourdes, for the 150th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady, the Holy Father introduced the Angelus with comments on Mary's purity as a key element opening all hearts to her.

12. Meeting with French Bishops
On Sunday afternoon, 14 September, the Holy Father went to the Hemicycle of the Church of St. Bernadette of Lourdes where he met with the French Bishops, whom he encouraged to work "in full communion with Peter, who has come in order to strengthen your faith."

13. Meditation after the Eucharistic Procession at Lourdes
On Sunday evening, 14 September, in the Prairie of Lourdes, after meeting with the French Bishops, the Holy Father, in liturgical vestments, took part from the podium in the conclusion of the Eucharistic procession. The Pope spoke after adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

14. Mass for the Sick, Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary
On Monday morning, 15 September, the Pope was driven to the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary, Lourdes, where he presided at Holy Mass for the sick. The Holy Father spoke of God's love passing to us through the heart of Mary.

15. Conclusion of Historic Visit to France
On Monday morning, 15 September, after the Mass for the sick, the Holy Father went to the Antoine Béguère Stadium where he embarked on a helicopter to Tarbes-Lourdes Pyrenees Airport. The Farewell Ceremony took place in the pavilion of honour where the aircraft was parked.


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