Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Bomb Scare at Lourdes

A commenter on my blog was present at Lourdes on the Feast of the Assumption, when a hoax bomb scare threatened. This is from our foreign correspondant...

'Oh the bomb scare! That was quite an experience. There was no panic as the officials evacuated all the sections bit by bit. The outdoor Mass for the French pilgrimage, with 30,000 present according to the local Lourdes paper, had just finished and we were all making our way to different places.

I took the opportunity of going to the baths. I came out of the icy water feeling euphoric and walked towards the Grotto not even noticing that there were only a few people sitting there! I heard a strange siren noise in the distance and various announcemnts in foreign languages but I found it easy to ignore. What must have been several minutes later I realised that there was no queue leading into the Grotto. Instead there was a dog handler and a very large dog with 'DOUANES' on his coat sniffing round the Grotto (the dog not the handler!)I learnt later he was called Hocco (again the dog not the handler!)

That was when I started to listen to the announcement and with a start realised it was telling everyone to leave by the nearest exit 'for security reasons.' Bomb disposal units were helicoptered in from Toulouse and many hundreds of people waited paiently outside the gates. It was strange to see the domaine so bereft of pilgrims. I went to have something to eat and returned to see if the afternoon Rosary was able to take place as usual in the grotto. Sadly the gates were still closed but a young priest had started to say the Rosary outside and we all spilled out into the road and joined in loudly above the noise of the traffic finishing with some well known French Marian hymns. I understand another group did the same at the other main gate. This impromptu prayer time was deeply moving. So many people had come to join in the celebrations for this great Feast day and they were not going to let a hoax bomb threat stop them from celebrating it in some way.

After some four hours the bomb disposal units eventually were satisfied that there were no bombs present and we were all allowed in to the grounds of the domaine where the daily Procession of the Blessed Sacrament took place a little later than usual. The authorities must be congratulated in the way they handled the evacuation safely and swiftly (including one Mass which had to be finished elsewhere).

Fr Tim Finigan has a good piece on the Lourdes 'sceptics'.

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