Lourdes is experiencing a surge in visitors, helped by a successful film about the pilgrimage site.
According to the Times, 27,000 pilgrims were expected to celebrate the feast of the Assumption in Lourdes, and 1.2 million in total in 2019 – a 15 per cent rise on last year. 2019 marks the 175th anniversary of St Bernadette’s birth.
Why was it under-reported?
The story is, perhaps, too French for international media to understand – especially in Protestant cultures where the deep appeal of pilgrimage has been forgotten. France appears to be remembering its heritage: Lourdes, a documentary about the site, has unexpectedly attracted around 220,000 cinema-goers – including agnostics and atheists.
It was initially released in only 40 cinemas, and was assumed to be of strictly Catholic interest. But now more than 1,000 cinemas have shown it.
What will happen next?
The Vatican has declared 2019 the Year of St Bernadette, to mark the anniversary. Rome has also appointed an apostolic delegate to ensure the site doesn’t become commercialised. The delegate will work alongside Guillaume de Vulpian, who was appointed to run the site in 2017 after it suffered major financial losses.
The site is now breaking even, but de Vulpian’s critics say he was too hard-headed in his methods – raising prices and not replacing staff who retired.
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.