.- The recent flooding of the Gave River left a “landscape of desolation” for cleanup workers as they began to remove mud and debris from the Lourdes shrine on Oct. 21.
Cleanup crews made up of local firefighters and municipal workers began the task of removing the thick mud and debris with tractors, shovels and fire hoses from the low-lying areas of the sanctuary Sunday afternoon.
The Grotto of Massabielle, where the Blessed Mother appeared 18 times to St. Bernadette Soubirous in 1858, was flooded with close to four feet of water and eight inches of mud during the Oct. 20 inundation. The grotto is set to reopen Oct. 23.
The pools where the sick visit in hopes of miraculous healing will remain closed indefinitely, Bishop Nicolas Brouwet of Tarbes and Lourdes said Oct. 21.
Enough progress has been made to allow for the traditional 9 p.m. candlelit Marian procession to take place Monday evening, and the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, which sits on higher ground than the grotto, reopened Monday morning.
An Italian pilgrimage bearing the relics of Blessed John Paul II, which was set to arrive from Rome Oct. 21, has been canceled according to the organization's president, Salvatore Pagliuca.
However, efforts are being made to reschedule the pilgrimage following the completion of the shrine's cleanup process.
The flash flood, which local officials called the worst in 25 years, began on Oct. 20 and caused the evacuation of hundreds of pilgrims and tourists.
Rain and high winds throughout the Hautes-Pyrenees region in southwestern France left some 8,000 residents without power over the weekend.
In his Oct. 21 Sunday Angelus address, Pope Benedict expressed his concern for the “serious flooding” of the shrine.