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Lourdes Under Water 

News Note POSTED: 10/22/12  

The Grotto where Our Lady appeared to St. Bernadette

( A relic of Blessed John Paul II was transported to the Shrine of Lourdes during a pilgrimage organized by UNITALSI (Italian National Union for Transport of the Sick to Lourdes and International Shrines). The pilgrimage is taking place from 21 to 27 October.

Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care, has granted UNITALSI permission to take a reliquary containing blood of John Paul II, so that it can be seen and venerated by pilgrims from all over the world.

Speaking on Vatican Radio Salvatore Pagliuccia, president of UNITALSI, noted that we currently are in the Year of Faith, and the Synod of Bishops is meeting to examine the question of new evangelization, "a theme very close to John Paul II's heart". That Pope's "influence is still felt in the Church and among the faithful", he said. Thus, "the presence of the reliquary of the blessed on the pilgrimage is a very significant sign, because it represents the presence of his ideas and his sentiments, above all the presence of the love which, as man and as pastor, he gave to people, to the faithful, and in particular to the sick and those with disabilities".

Floods swamp Lourdes

In a strange coincidence, major floods caused by days of non-stop rain in southwest France caused the closure of most of the Catholic sanctuary of Lourdes yesterday (October 21) the same day the relic of John Paul was scheduled to arrive.  The evacuation of hundreds of pilgrims became necessary, local authorities report. Buses ferried guests from hotels in the lower town to a conference centre and a sports complex as officials said the sites would stay closed for several days.

Only the old basilica remains untouched

Two campsites were also evacuated and several roads closed around Lourdes, where Our Lady appeared to peasant girl Bernadette Soubirous in a grotto in 1858, as the river Gave de Pau burst its banks. The water was around one meter deep in front of the grotto and 80 centimeters in the avenue du Paradis, where most of the hotels for pilgrims are located, after what officials said was the worst flooding in 25 years.

Only the massive basilica, built on higher ground (many years before Vatican II), was still accessible. "The space in front of the grotto is entirely covered with water, the altar is under water," Thierry Castillo, the custodian of the sanctuaries, said. "There are torrents of mud," he said, predicting major damage which would be costly to repair. Castillo singled out the hydroelectric plant which provides power to the sanctuaries, which was badly damaged by floating tree trunks.

The Gave de Pau was three meters (10 feet) above its usual level Saturday morning and still rising, as weather forecasters predicted that the rain that has been falling non-stop since Thursday would continue until Sunday. A heavy downpour is forecast for Saturday evening and night. In the same region 3,500 homes were still without electricity after strong winds Thursday and Friday brought down power lines "I've seen nothing like it in 40 years," said hotel owner Pierre Barrere as he watched the pilgrims being evacuated.

Source: VIS and

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