Lourdes shrine and pilgrimages adapt to coronavirus fears

  • Ellen Teague

HCPT group visits Lourdes Grotto

HCPT group visits Lourdes Grotto

In response to the growing number of people testing positive for the coronavirus in Europe, the French Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes has announced that the baths will be closed until further notice. And the Sanctuary now has a procedure in place for assistance intervention to anybody presenting symptoms of coronavirus, including the use of protective equipment. "Our first concern will always be the safety and health of the pilgrims and the shrine's working community," said a note posted on the shrine's website; "as a precaution, the pools have been closed until further notice."

Pilgrims are still welcome in Lourdes. The pilgrimage season is going ahead, picking up from Palm Sunday on 5 April, but the Sanctuary will adapt practices as the situation evolves, following instructions from the French Ministry of Health. Larger pilgrimages will be affected by last weekend's declaration by the Ministry that all gatherings of more than 5,000 people in confined spaces are cancelled in France for the time being.

Soon after the announcement, the HCPT cancelled its 2020 Easter Pilgrimage to Lourdes. The decision was taken by HCPT's board of trustees, with the support of the management team, after a detailed evaluation of the situation surrounding the COVID 19 (coronavirus) outbreak, and consideration of likely trends over the next few months. It is the first cancellation of the Easter HCPT pilgrimage in more than 60 years. The decision took particular account of announcements made last weekend by French authorities with regard to the risks of gathering in large numbers and concerns about the potential risk of any requirement for a period of isolation in France should an outbreak of the virus occur in the Lourdes area.

HCPT said: "We are acutely aware of the disappointment of this decision and the impact it will have on our pilgrims who have been looking forward to this event for some time. This sadness is shared by thousands right across HCPT, who have been preparing for this year's Easter Pilgrimage. Currently there is no change to plans for HCPT's summer 2020 pilgrimages to Lourdes."

Responses from HCPT groups suggest that the move is supported. Comments such as "tough but right decision," "so sad but sensible" and "can't risk children's health" filled HCPT social media outlets, along with "but absolutely gutted at the same time!"

LINKS

www.lourdes-france.org/en/

www.hcpt.org.uk/


Tags: Coronavirus, Lourdes, HCPT, Ellen Teague. #Coronavirus

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