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

As people in the United States celebrate Memorial Day, Catholic members of the military are on a pilgrimage to Lourdes, France, with service members from 40 countries. Pope Francis sent a message of prayer and encouragement.

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

Members of the U.S. and Canadian military pose an undated photo on the steps of the Rosary Basilica at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes in France with Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, center, and Bishop Scott McCaig, head of the Military Ordinariate of Canada. (OSV News photo/Tamino Petelinsek, courtesy Knights of Columbus)

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.

Italian military gather at Lourdes grotto
Members of the Italian military and of the Pontifical Swiss Guard are seen in this screen grab gathering for Mass at the grotto of the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in France May 25, 2024. (CNS photo/Sanctuaire Notre-Dame de Lourdes, YouTube)

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."

British and Croatian bishops and soldiers in Lourdes
Bishop Paul Mason, bishop of the British Forces, center left, and Bishop Jure Bogdan, military ordinary of Croatia, center right, pose for a photo with two members of the Royal Air Force and two Croatian soldiers at the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in France May 25, 2024. (CNS photo/Flt. Lt. Luke Bluer)

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.



With its Rome bureau founded in 1950, Catholic News Service has been providing complete, in-depth coverage of the popes and the Vatican for more than 70 years.  CNS Rome continues to be your fair, faithful and informed connection to the Holy See.