Lourdes shrine seriously affected by flooding

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The Shrine of Lourdes in France has been hit by severe flooding for the second time in months, with some areas inaccessible after violent storms passed through the region.

According to the rector of the shrine, Father Horacio Brito, the damage is four times greater than what occurred during the flooding last October.

Water, rocks, pieces of wood and mud are preventing people from entering the shrine. Pilgrims were evacuated from the lower level, while chaplains at the shrine celebrated Masses at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception on the upper level instead.

The Grotto of Massabielle is reported to be under five feet of water, while the Basilica of St. Pius X has seen the highest flood levels since its 1958 inauguration, with its the lower level transformed into a lake.

“We now have had some experience with the incidents from October of 2012,” Father Brito said. “The difference now is that there are more pilgrims. Our main concern is to continue to welcome people in the best conditions.”

“We plan to start cleanup as soon as (the flood water) recedes. The Shrine will probably need the solidarity of everyone,” he added.

The spokesman for the French Bishops' Conference, Msgr. Bernard Potdvin, expressed the Church's solidarity with those affected by the flooding and with all those for whom Lourdes is a true source of fraternal and spiritual life.

Efforts are now underway to ensure that Lourdes will be restored to its Marian mission, he said.

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