Carfin Grotto in North Lanarkshire, currently hosting the relics of St Bernadette, has been named Scotland’s National Marian Shrine.
The Grotto, founded in 1922 as a replica of the site in Lourdes where St Bernadette Soubirous experienced visions of the Virgin Mary in 1858, is hosting Bernadette’s relics between the 24 September and 1 October as part of the 2022 tour of the relics in Britain.
At a “National Mass” commemorating the site’s centenary, celebrating the visit of the relics to Carfin and marking the grotto’s naming as National Marian Shrine, the Bishops of Scotland concelebrated a Mass outdoors attended by hundreds of pilgrims. Joseph Toal, Bishop of Motherwell and the grotto’s ordinary, paid tribute in his homily to Canon Thomas Nimmo Taylor, the founder of the shrine.
The Archbishop of Armagh, Eamon Martin, who celebrated mass with the Scottish Bishops, recalled his grandfather making a visit to Carfin many years before, and said it was “an honour” to be invited to the site. The Mass was followed by an evening torchlit procession.
Bernadette’s relics will remain at Carfin till 1 October, with individual dioceses organising specific days of prayer and pilgrimage at the site. From there, the relics will return to England, beginning with the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle, and continuing their journey till 1 November, when they will return to France from the Ukranian Catholic cathedral of London.
The relics visited Liverpool between the 15 and 20 September, where, in an ecumenical gesture, both the Anglican and Catholic dioceses in Liverpool played host to Bernadette’s remains.
Enthusiastic crowds gathered to venerate the relics, with some reports of pushing and shoving among over-eager pilgrims, many of whom had travelled long distances for the visit.
The Dean of Liverpool’s Catholic cathedral, Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King, Canon Anthony O'Brien, told The Tablet that, despite some minor confusion on the relics’ arrival and difficulties with the online booking system, the visit was “calm and prayerful”, with 13,000-15,000 people attending over the three days of the visit.
He said that the bank holiday for the Queen’s funeral forced the cancellation of children's visits with their schools, but the cathedral remained open as a space for quiet reflection in the presence of the relics.