Thursday, July 04, 2024

Bishop of Lourdes: Rupnik mosaics must go – but not immediately

The mosaics by the controversial Jesuit artist Marko Rupnik in the French pilgrimage site of Lourdes will not be removed from the basilica for the time being. 

Although he is convinced that they will have to be removed one day, the Bishop of Lourdes, Jean-Marc Micas, told the French newspaper “La Croix” (Tuesday evening online). 

Until then, the first step will be to no longer emphasise them, as was previously done, for example, by illuminating them during the evening Marian procession.

Micas pointed out that it was possible to remove the mosaics without destroying them. They had not been glued directly to the walls of the basilica, but had been installed in such a way that they could be removed.

His decision was preceded by the appointment of a working group in April 2023 to discuss the continued existence of the artworks on the façade of the Rosary Basilica. Micas emphasised at the time that the group was to help him with the decision he had to make as bishop.

The renowned Slovenian artist Rupnik had fallen into disrepute due to various allegations of sexual harassment and spiritual abuse. 

The Jesuit order and the Vatican have imposed punitive measures on him. 

As a result, Rupnik’s religious work is also under discussion. 

In Lourdes, Rupnik was commissioned to create mosaics on the theme of the rosary for the façade of the basilica to mark the 150th anniversary of the Marian apparitions there in 2008.

“Lourdes must be a place of consolation for those affected”

Micas emphasised that it was agreed that Lourdes must continue to be a place of consolation and healing for those affected by abuse. 

However, the working group was divided on the removal of the mosaics. Those in favour had emphasised that artistic or economic considerations should not be more important than the care of those affected by abuse. 

The opponents had pointed out that the trauma of the victims could not be healed by destroying the memories of the abuse and that the work had to be separated from the person of the artist.

For him personally, the decisive factor was that the mosaics could be an obstacle for those affected to visit Lourdes. 

The omnipresence of the works is problematic; they are impossible to overlook. Lourdes is a place of mercy where those wounded by life and the Church must come first, said Micas. 

Addressing those affected, he emphasised that their lives and their personalities were “infinitely more valuable” than the most beautiful work of art.

Those affected call for further steps

A group of affected women, represented by Italian lawyer Laura Sgro, welcomed the decision, but also called for further steps to be taken. 

Even if the mosaics are no longer illuminated in the evening, they are still visible during the day and fuel the disconcertment of the faithful and the feeling of pain of the victims, they said in a statement on Wednesday. 

Those affected are prepared to meet with Bishop Micas to discuss an appropriate course of action.