Be proud of your uniform, committed to peace, pope tells military

British chaplains and members of the Royal Air Force pose for a photo near one of the Stations of the Cross at the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in France May 25, 2024. (CNS photo/Bishop Paul Mason)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Entrusting to God's mercy all of their comrades-in-arms who have died serving their countries and defending peace, Pope Francis urged Catholic members of the military to let their faith inform their service.

"The world needs you, especially at this dark moment in our history. We need men and women of faith capable of putting weapons at the service of peace and brotherhood," said the papal message to thousands of soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen and cadets making a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in France.

The annual International Military Pilgrimage to Lourdes, held May 24-26 this year, involves some 15,000 current, retired and wounded members of the military from 40 nations -- including members of the Vatican's Swiss Guard. They are joined by military chaplains and bishops who head their nations' military ordinariates, including Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher, the Vatican foreign minister, led the pilgrimage and brought with him the pope's blessing in a message signed by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state. The message was released at the Vatican May 25.

Making a pilgrimage is a time to renew one's baptismal commitment by listening to the Gospel and receiving the sacraments, the message said. "This spiritual pause in Lourdes is a time to rethink your military vocation from the perspective of faith and of the love that every Christian must cultivate toward his brothers and sisters, even his enemies."

"Be military men and women, proud to honor your uniform, your regiment and your homeland, but also be aware that you are part of a single human family, a family that is torn and wounded but which Christ came to redeem and save through the power of love, not the violence of arms," it said.

The military pilgrimage to Lourdes, the message said, also is "a faith experience that helps us discover the beauty of journeying together, supporting one another and reaching out to one another."

Being in Lourdes is a time "to be close to your sick and wounded comrades-in-arms and to care for them -- especially in a place where the sick are so present -- and to bring God's mercy to the military world," the message said. "May this translate into true, simple and humane gestures that reveal the tender face of our God."

"May you live this out not only in Lourdes, but wherever you are sent, bearing witness to the Gospel among your fellow soldiers," it continued.

The message assured the pilgrims that Pope Francis "entrusts to God's mercy all servicemen and women who have died in the service of their country or in international operations to defend peace."

"He invokes on all present at Lourdes and their families, as well as on the soldiers engaged on various fronts, on missions for the preservation of peace far from home, and on those who are wounded and suffering, a special abundance of graces," it said.



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