Cleanup begins at Lourdes shrine after flooding

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VATICAN CITY - Flooding at the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes Oct. 20 temporarily closed much of the popular French pilgrimage site and led to the evacuation of several hundred pilgrims.

The shrine church was partially open Oct. 21, but the pools where the sick bathe in hopes of spiritual and physical healing were to remain closed indefinitely, said Bishop Nicolas Brouwet of Tarbes and Lourdes.

The Lourdes grotto, where Mary is reported to have appeared to St. Bernadette Soubirous in 1858, was to reopen the evening of Oct. 23 after a major cleanup of mud left behind by the waters of the flooding Gave River. Shrine officials had reported up to four feet of water in the grotto.

Pope Benedict XVI publicly expressed his concern about the flooding Oct. 21 during the recitation of the Angelus after canonizing seven new saints and celebrating Mass in St. Peter's Square.

"We turn to the one who is queen of all the saints, the Virgin Mary, with a thought for Lourdes, struck by the serious flooding of the Gave, which has flooded even the Grotto of the Apparitions," the pope said.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 1970