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Faithful at the cave of Massabielle in Lourdes Faithful at the cave of Massabielle in Lourdes  (AFP or licensors)

Relics of St. Bernadette to visit dioceses in Great Britain

A recent announcement reveals plans for the relics of St. Bernadette of Lourdes to tour the Dioceses of England, Scotland and Wales in autumn 2022.

By Jack Ryan

Following an annual meeting of the English and Welsh Bishops conference last week, it was made public that relics from St Bernadette’s thigh will be taken to major cathedrals and churches across Great Britain next year, giving Catholics the chance to venerate her, and seek her intercession.

The Saint of Lourdes

St Bernadette, whose real name was Marie Bernarde Soubirous, was an illiterate French girl who received apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary when she was 14 years old.

Between February 11 and July 16 of 1858, St Bernadette witnessed 18 apparitions at the grotto of Massabielle, by the side of the River Gave in the village of Lourdes.

They involved a vision of a young lady, dressed in white who spoke to St Bernadette, telling her that people must offer prayer and penance for their sins. She also asked Bernadette to go to the local with the message that a chapel be built and that people go there in procession.

On 25 March, St. Bernadette asked the lady who she was. “I am the Immaculate Conception”, she replied. In 1854, four years earlier, Pope Pius IX had defined the dogma of Mary’s Immaculate Conception.

Bernadette was beatified in 1925 and canonised by Pope Pius XI on December 8, 1933, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.

A genuine offer for pilgrimage

Canon Christopher Thomas, general secretary of the bishop’s conference of England and Wales, said the Shrine of Lourdes in the French Pyrenees approached the English and Welsh bishops with the offer of the pilgrimage of the relics and the bishops accepted.

Canon Thomas said: “It was a genuine offer made by the shrine in Lourdes.”

“The bishops saw this as not only something that will remind us of the importance of pilgrimage in our lives and the importance of the place of Lourdes in the life of many Catholics and dioceses in this country, but it will remind us of the centrality of the lives of the saints because this always points us to that greater degree of virtue that we are called to in our living of the Catholic faith.”

In recent memory, a quarter of a million people queued to venerate the relics of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, when they visited Great Britain in 2009.

Lourdes is ‘coming’ to Britain

One of the Dioceses the relics will visit is Shrewsbury, England. The Bishop of Shrewsbury, The Rt. Rev. Mark Davies, welcomed the news: “Many pilgrims have journeyed to Lourdes over the years to pray alongside St Bernadette – and now it seems Lourdes is coming to us by the visit of the relics.”

Pilgrimages to Lourdes from Britain, due to the COVID pandemic, have been greatly reduced. In other years, Lourdes is one of the most popular Marian shrines in the world, with over 100,000 volunteers welcoming more than 5 million pilgrims and visitors – including more than 50,000 sick and disabled persons – to the Shrine each year.

23 November 2021, 14:53