By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Led by 18 sharply dressed Italian military police on horseback, hundreds of people who care for the sick escorted a relic of St. Bernadette Soubirous into St. Peter's Square here.
The procession down the main street leading to the square opened festivities at the Vatican marking the Feb. 11 feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and the World Day of the Sick.
The golden reliquary containing one of the French visionary's ribs was carried into St. Peter's Basilica, where midday prayers were led by Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of the basilica.
The cardinal said Mary appeared to St. Bernadette in Lourdes, France, 150 years ago, entrusting her with a message for the world "because she had a pure soul, a humble soul and, therefore, was ready and able to accept a message from God."
In the evening, the sick and those who care for them participated in a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry.
The cardinal prayed that in marking the 150th anniversary of the apparitions of Mary, the sick would learn how to imitate her total openness to accepting God's plan for her life, which included having to watch her son suffer and die.
At the foot of cross, he said, Mary became the mother of all those who believe in Jesus, and she continues to look after all of them with care and tenderness.
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