The annual Assumption celebrations at Lourdes took place on Saturday with markedly reduced attendance due to pandemic-related restrictions.
Just under 5,000 pilgrims attended the Mass for the feast, which would normally see 25,000 faithful gathered in the enormous underground in Basilica of Saint Pius X.
This year’s socially-distanced gathering was still of unprecedented scale for a Church celebration during the coronavirus pandemic.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin presided over the celebrations and spoke at Mass of the hope Christians need to face up to the challenges of the pandemic.
It was Cardinal Parolin’s third visit to the shrine since being appointed Vatican secretary of state, having attended as the Pope’s representative for the 2017 World Day of the Sick and the 2018 feast of St Francis de Sales.
Speaking ahead of the Cardinal Parolin’s return to Lourdes, Fr Cabanac, one of the Assumptionist fathers organising the pilgrimage, said: “It is a very important sign for us that the Cardinal visits. With his presence, he is giving an expression of encouragement that is faithful and humble.”
“The Cardinal is giving a strong message of prayer not only for France but for the world,” he added. “Presenting his intention here in the Grotto of Massabielle and this visit will be very important for us, for France and for the Church.”
The 2020 celebrations were the 147th edition of the national Assumption pilgrimage held annually at Lourdes on August 15.
This year, the recess of the grotto where the Virgin Mary appeared St Bernadette of Lourdes in 1858 was cordoned off and the healing pools were closed during the pilgrimage in order to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection.