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COVID-19

Lourdes, dependent on pilgrims, sees economic downturn with pandemic

John Laurenson Oct 12, 2020
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Pilgrims stand in front of Our Lady of the Rosary Basilica in the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes on May 16, 2020. Lionel Bonaventure/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

Lourdes, dependent on pilgrims, sees economic downturn with pandemic

John Laurenson Oct 12, 2020
Heard on:
Pilgrims stand in front of Our Lady of the Rosary Basilica in the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes on May 16, 2020. Lionel Bonaventure/AFP via Getty Images
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Lourdes — one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in the world — is having a bad time during the pandemic. Completely closed for two months, even with France out of lockdown, the pilgrims are only returning in tiny numbers compared with the 6 million a year who usually visit.

Pilgrims have been coming here for over a century seeking healing. They bathe in what many believe to be holy spring water.

A pilgrim in a Lourdes gift shop.
A pilgrim in a Lourdes gift shop. (John Laurenson)

Lourdes Rector Olivier Ribadeau-Dumas says almost all group pilgrimages have been canceled, leaving a big financial gap. 

“The absence of organized pilgrimages has left us with a large deficit,” he said, speaking in French.

Claudine Aubert heads the union of 130 stores in Lourdes selling what the French call “objects of piety,” including rosary beads.

“In July, sales were down 80%. In August, too. I was born in Lourdes, but I’ve never seen anything like it,” she said, speaking in French.

Click the audio player above to hear the full story.

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