International Military Pilgrimage

The International Military Pilgrimage started in 1958 when the French Armed Forces invited the German military to join them in Lourdes as a gesture of post-war reconciliation.

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Since 1958 the pilgrimage has opened up and in 2017 some 41 countries were represented among the 16,000 military pilgrims.

The Bishopric of the Forces is responsible for the United Kingdom’s participation.

The British participants come from bases in the UK, Germany and Cyprus.

Lourdes, in the foothills of the Pyrenees, is the site of apparitions of the Virgin Mary who appeared to a young girl called Bernadette 160 years ago.

Each year Lourdes attracts about six million pilgrims from around the world.

The 2019 Military Pilgrimage was the Right Reverend Paul Mason’s first visit to Lourdes as Forces Bishop.

It’s a wonderful time for different nations to come together. We’ve had the opportunity to pray hard and to play hard. We’ll spend time in church together but in the evenings we’ll get to know each other and it’s very high-spirited – a healthy atmosphere. I’m not sure there are many places that would provide a context for this type of engagement. Lourdes has got something very special about it.

Rt Revd Paul Mason
Catholic Bishop of the Forces


Lance Corporal David Long serves in 238 Transport Squadron of the Royal Logistics Corps.

He reflects on his Lourdes experience as a non-Catholic who had only ever been to church for the funerals of his mum and nan.

Lance Corporal Long found the pilgrimage an eye-opening experience.

Going to Church opened my eyes. The padres are always there to talk to us if we need them. I’d been through some bad times and some low times before being in the Army. Things like this experience in Lourdes can only help me. People are so friendly, it’s unbelievable.

Lance Corporal David Long
Royal Logistics Corps

To read more visit the Bishopric of the Forces website.