Projet Grotte cœur de Lourdes : "A project in the service of beauty and the spiritual life"
"A project in the service of beauty and the spiritual life" (Mgr Bernard Podvin)
On Thursday 6 November 2014, during a Press conference given in the context of the Plenary Assembly of the French Bishops gathered in Lourdes up to 9 November, Mgr Nicolas Brouwet, Bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes, revealed the outline of the "Project of the Grotto, the heart of Lourdes".
This project, the implementation of which will be phased throughout the winters of 2015 and 2016, is part of the general pastoral guidelines for the Sanctuary he submitted last 11 February. The redevelopment of the area of the Grotto of the Apparitions, the object of the "Project of the Grotto, the heart of Lourdes", is therefore part of a much wider project which includes, for example, the proclamation of the Gospel and the internationalization of the Sanctuary.
"This project was approved unanimously"
In the presence of the journalists, Mgr Brouwet gave the essence of the “Project of the Grotto, the heart of Lourdes”: "Taking care of this Holy place in order to improve facilities for pilgrims." When he officially opened the website dedicated to the “Project of the Grotto, the heart of Lourdes” www.projetgrottecoeurdelourdes.com during the press conference, he stressed the extent to which "this project had been approved unanimously." He then talked about the new arrangements of the Grotto and the area around it. Apart from the Grotto itself, which will be made more prayerful and more conducive to meditation, a major innovation of the project will consist of moving the water taps or fountains "to rediscover the gestures associated with the water and enable preaching to take place”: they will be moved between the Grotto and the Baths, to the current location of the candle burners which will, in turn, be transferred to the other side of the Gave, on the right bank. Pilgrims will gain access by a new bridge on a hydraulic jack which can be raised in case of flooding of the Gave, enabling debris of various kinds to flow freely underneath. Another innovation, the creation of a new and bigger sacristy for the Grotto, located in what is, at the moment, the building of the feutiers (those in charge of the candles). As far as the Baths are concerned, no change on the inside, but the awning will be completely redone and a system of flood protection of the building will be installed to avoid complete flooding in case of the Gave overflowing. Mgr Brouwet took advantage of this conference to announce, from next year, an extension of the opening hours of the Baths in order to provide a better service for the pilgrims : from Monday to Saturday 9.30am-12.30, and 1.30pm-6.00 pm, and on Sunday 10.00am - Noon, and 2.00pm-4.00pm. Also an innovation in the Baths: the possibility of preaching there as the pilgrims wait. There is a renewed interest in the ritual of the Baths: "The Baths are more and more in demand by young people", the Bishop notes. Regarding the redeployment of the area for burning candles on the right bank, the area of the candle burners will be doubled to allow all the candles to burn to extinction without the need to store them in the summer so that they may finish burning in the winter.
The French Bishops are very enthusiastic
The bishops of France who were present in Lourdes were informed directly of the project by Bishop Brouwet and they appeared very enthusiastic. Present at the press conference, Bishop Bernard Podvin, spokesman of the French Bishops' Conference, expressed his keen interest for the "Project of the Grotto, the heart of Lourdes" thinking of the pilgrims in the first instance. "The pilgrim is here at home, the pilgrim comes first. This is the Marian teaching. When we say that Mary looks at Bernadette like a person looks at another person, everything planned in this Project will make anyone coming to Lourdes feel even more at home. The welcome will be even greater. Lourdes is constantly reborn. Lourdes is our family. "Addressing Bishop Brouwet, he told him with much warmth: "This is a project in the service of beauty and the spiritual life." The first sod of the work concerning the "Project of the Grotto, the heart of Lourdes" will be turned on 17 November.
Photos : P. Vincent / Texte : L. Jarneau