Easter weekend in Lourdes: pilgrims almost absent, but audience that explodes

The Catholic shrine of Lourdes, which is the most important “historically empty” for the second time in a row at the opening of the Easter weekend, has multiplied its audience in the Catholic chains of the world and in the networks by five.

On this Saturday afternoon, April 3rd, around 500 pilgrims walked to the wondrous grotto of Lourdes, where, according to Catholic tradition, the Virgin Mary Bernadette Soubirous would have appeared in 1858. 15,000 to 20,000 “people normally visit the shrine“ in normal years, ”says Communications Director David Torchala. Last year, the Shrine of Notre Dame of Lourdes marked the first time in its history for this key moment of the Catholic faith that marked the beginning of seven months of pilgrimage marked, closed to the public.

“TV Lourdes has become a veritable marshalling yard for TV partners and social networks,” emphasizes David Torchala, adding, “In 20 years I have never seen so many innovations as in the last few months: It is a haven that is reinvents. ” “Since the first restriction, the number of viewers for new transmissions has multiplied fivefold. We reach five million viewers and listeners live via five international television partners”, in particular “the French-speaking broadcaster, which has been very popular in the East, KTO but also the Italian antenna TV 2000 or the American broadcaster EWTN “.

The sanctuary’s Youtube channel “has won the loyalty of no less than 250,000 subscribers” and has collected 59 million views since its inception, while its Facebook page is approaching 800,000 followers, the communicator says. According to him, “these new means have made it possible to maintain the connection with the faithful” while “all pilgrimages for the month of April have been canceled”, in particular an Italian pilgrimage – the first foreign nationality – and a pilgrimage from Grande-Bretagne, which it Enables 5,000 disabled children to come to the construction site.

Limited losses thanks to donations

“The (new) detention is a heavy blow, but we have hope,” admits the communications director, who hopes that “from summer” the shrine will “welcome French pilgrims and perhaps Spaniards or Italians” without seeing it. distant pilgrims, Asian or South American “. In 2020, the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes, which in normal times employs 320 people, recorded a loss of 4 million euros. A limited loss “that would have been twice as large without the mobilization of donors”.

“The sanctuary is part of this ecosystem of the city of Lourdes and brings this ecosystem to life,” notes the Rector of Notre Dame de Lourdes, Olivier Ribadeau Dumas. “If the sanctuary is deserted, it is an entire city that is affected. I am extremely in solidarity with all hoteliers, all restaurateurs, all traders, all seasonal workers who cannot work,” added the site manager. On Saturday, some infrequent tourists strolled the Marian city’s shopping streets when “they are usually thousands”.

A revitalization plan for the tourist area needs to be put in place in the coming weeks to save the summer season.

In the evening, the Easter Vigil – the ceremony that marks the beginning of Easter and the end of Lent – takes place behind closed doors, as it did last year with the unique presence of the 30 chaplains, these priests who perform the services of the sanctuary.