The relics of Lourdes visionary Saint Bernadette will begin a two-month-long tour of England, Wales and Scotland this week beginning on 3 September and concluding on 1 November.
The relics’ journey around
Britain will see the remains of St Bernadette make special visits to
Scotland’s Carfin Grotto, HMP Wormwood Scrubs and the Anglican and the
Catholic cathedrals of Liverpool.
Churches from each of England’s 22 Catholic dioceses will host the relics, including Ampleforth Abbey in Yorkshire, Our Lady of the Assumption and the English Martyrs in Cambridge and St Winefride’s Well Shrine in Holywell.
The tour, first announced in November 2021, also includes a stop specifically for the Roman Catholic Bishopric of the Forces in Clifton Cathedral on 7 September and HMP Wormwood Scrubs on 30 October.
The Ukrainian Catholic and Syro-Malabar eparchies will also host the relics for a day, in London and Preston respectively. When first announced, the visit was compared to the tour of Thérèse of Liseux’s relics in 2009, which attracted unexpectedly high numbers.
In a letter released through the tour’s official website, Cardinal Vincent Nichols said that the visit “offers us a welcome opportunity to bear active witness to our Faith, joining with one another across our many communities to encounter God’s love and find spiritual, emotional, and psychological healing and renewal”.
He asked Catholics to take part in the tour and to continue that participation by considering pilgrimage to Lourdes itself in future. Concluding his letter, the Cardinal thanked God “for the faith of St Bernadette and for the many gifts and graces the relic tour will bring”.
Bernadette Soubirous, the child of a miller from Lourdes, southern France, experienced visions of Mary, Mother of Christ, between 11 February and 16 July 1858. After a canonical investigation, Church authorities declared the visions “worthy of belief” in 1862 and Lourdes rapidly became a major site of pilgrimage.
Around 70 miracles attributed to the intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes have been validated by the Church to date.
Bernadette was canonised in 1933, and her remains were preserved in a shrine in the town of Nevers, central France, the location of the convent Bernadette joined in 1866 and died in in 1879. They are now ordinarily held in the Upper Basilica of Lourdes, which before the coronavirus pandemic hosted around 3.5 million pilgrims a year.