Lourdes launches online pilgrimage

The Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes is organising an online pilgrimage and crowdfunding drive to try to make up a US$9 million deficit.

“Lourdes needs the world, and the world needs Lourdes,” said Monsignor Olivier Ribadeau Dumas, rector of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes.

The online pilgrimage, entitled “Lourdes United”, will take place on 16 July.

It will include a 15-hour live session, in different languages, with Masses, processions, rosaries and other prayers.

The 16 July is a significant date at the shrine – it is the anniversary of the last Marian apparition recorded in Lourdes.

Lourdes United will bring together all those who “from every corner of the world, see Lourdes as a beacon of faith, commitment, sharing and hope.”

“The world is facing an unprecedented economic and social crisis, combined with a strong desire to find meaning in everything that has happened so far,” a press statement says.

“The fraternity, generosity and hope that the Shrine has brought with it for 162 years has never been so essential.”

“Hundreds of thousands of messages, cries for help, cries of suffering, but also testimonies of hope continue to reach Lourdes, hearts beating with prayer.”

The event’s website says Lourdes without pilgrims is a Lourdes “without resources to carry out its mission, to maintain the entire site, to guarantee its durability and the jobs of its 320 employees.”

Reports suggest the entire Lourdes area is struggling, as have become the central industry in this small town. With only 14,300 inhabitants, it has the second largest hotel capacity in France after Paris, with 22,000 beds.

The pandemic forced the shrine to close for more than two months, and had a negative flow-on effect on the small town’s hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops.

The plan is for people to feel as if they’re physically present at the site, organisers says.

They are presenting this as the first world-wide online pilgrimage, where virtual visitors can buy candles and bottles to store holy water. Visitors will also be able to make donations to help with the maintenance of the site.

Lourdes has been a place of pilgrimage for over 160 years, since 14-year-old Bernadette Soubirous said she saw the Mother of God in a series of apparitions.

Soubirous said she was told a spring would appear where she saw the Virgin seven times, and that the water would help heal people. The water appeared.

An estimated 200 million people have visited the shrine and the “Domain,” as the surrounding area is known.

The full pilgrimage programme will be broadcast via TV, radio and social media. It will include testimonials from priests, members of religious orders, lay people, doctors, journalists, politicians, believers and non-believers, who will share what Lourdes means to them.

There will also be speakers on solidarity, fraternity, commitment and volunteering, in between prayer sessions and live music.



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