Lourdes, France, Mar 17, 2020 / 04:30 am
The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes has closed for the first time in over a century following new restrictions in France to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
“For the first time in its history, the sanctuary will close its doors for a while. Pray with us the novena to the Immaculate,” Mgr. Olivier Ribadeau Dumas, rector of the Lourdes sanctuary announced March 17.
No public Masses will be offered in the sanctuary due to national measures announced by French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron on the evening of March 16.
France is the third European country to enact a mandatory national quarantine in response to the growing number of cases of COVID-19. Italy and Spain have both imposed nationwide lockdowns, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis have also announced bans on all religious services in their countries.
The French government restrictions include limiting citizens’ movement outside of their homes for the next 15 days to grocery shopping and essential movement, as well as the closure of all schools, restaurants, cafes, and most businesses.
Following the closure of Lourdes, French Auxiliary Bishop Antoine Hérouard of Lille called on Catholics to participate in a novena to Our Lady of Lourdes from March 17-25 to pray for the sick who have been infected with the coronavirus.
“The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes is a privileged place of prayer for and with the sick,” Bishop Hérouard said in his introduction to the novena published on March 17.
The French bishop is asking everyone to commit to praying the rosary for nine consecutive days, concluding on March 25, the feast of the Annunciation.