Straight and gay couples invited to Lourdes

Couples, married or not, heterosexual or homosexual, were invited to spend Valentine’s Day in Lourdes.

According to an AFP report, a flyer was put out by Tarbes et Lourdes diocese touting a “couples weekend”.

“Come to Lourdes to say I love you,” the flyer stated.

It featured the silhouettes of a man and a woman holding hands.

The AFP report stated the French “sanctuary’s treasurer” Thierry Castillo insisted that the invitation is “open to all kinds of couples – married, not married, homosexual . . . “.

He noted however, that unmarried couples, straight or gay, could not expect the blessing of the Catholic Church.

As of late Friday, around 100 couples had made online reservations for the Valentine’s weekend, the diocese’s communications director David Torchala told AFP.

But the spokesman added that none of the couples were gay.

“We’ll see who turns up. The goal is not to know who they are, the idea is to welcome all couples so that they entrust their love to the Lord. It’s a prayer for couples” to be led Tarbes et Lourdes diocese’s Bishop Nicolas Brouwet, Mr Torchala said.

“This initiative aims to extend God’s love to all. It’s a first,” he said.

Mr Torchala noted that “Operation St Valentines” fits in with the theme of the Jubilee Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis.

But the spokesman said couples cannot expect a “nuptial blessing” or “ecclesiastical act”.

A recent study concluding that Lourdes’s souvenir shops and hotels are “doing steadily worse”.

The study found that arrivals decreased by about a quarter between 2009 and 2014.

Tourism director Pascale Fourticq said the town plans to reorient its strategy to appeal to wealthier visitors.

In October, Lourdes will host a fair for tour operators to generate interest in higher-end stays.

But mayor Josette Bourdeu does not want to sacrifice its identity.

“The sick (seeking healing) must remain the city’s DNA,” she said.


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