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Pope says pilgrimage not a vacation

MANILA, Philippines — Instead of treating it as an opportunity for vacation, Pope Francis has appealed to the Roman Catholic faithful to view every pilgrimage as a sacred occasion.

The head of the Roman Catholic Church relayed the message at a meeting with priests and lay people from the Archdiocese of Ozamis in Misamis Occidental at the Clementine Hall in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican on Friday.

The contingent – led by Ozamis Bishop Martin Jumoad – was on a pilgrimage to churches dedicated to the Virgin Mary around Europe as part of the celebration of the archdiocese’s 50th anniversary, according to the news service of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

“It is important to keep in mind, however, that a pilgrimage is not like a vacation. In fact, making a pilgrimage to shrines is an eloquent expression of trust in God,” said the Roman Pontiff in his message posted on the Vatican website.

Pope Francis added he hoped the journey of the members of the Archdiocese of Ozamis would “help each of you to be like Mary: missionary disciples transformed by your encounter with the Lord and renewed in zeal for bearing witness to his presence, compassion and love.”

Also regarded as the 266th successor of St. Peter, to whom Jesus gave the “keys to the kingdom of heaven” according to the Bible, Francis called on the faithful in the archdiocese to “contribute to the advancement of God’s kingdom of justice, unity and peace.”

“It is my hope that your parishes and communities will be models in practicing the works of mercy and in being neighbors to all, especially families, young people, the sick, the elderly and the poor, with the charity that Jesus asks of us,” the Pope said.

He stressed in particular the need for Catholics to be “responsible stewards of creation, in the realization that our care for one another and for our common home are intimately bound together,” citing his apostolic exhortation Laudate Deum.

Francis gave his blessing to the visitors from Ozamis and also asked them to pray for him, which he has been asking the faithful since the start of his pontificate in 2013.

The Archdiocese of Ozamis – established in 1951 – was supposed to