At what level should we consider Lourdes, this sanctuary fully anchored in these Pyrenean roots, where all the dioceses of France go on pilgrimage and which attract visitors from all over the world? In short, it is this work of definition that Mgr Antoine Hérouard, auxiliary bishop of Lille (North), has been working on since his appointment by Pope Francis as apostolic delegate to the sanctuary in June 2019.
“ Clearer operating rules are needed in Lourdes, which take into account the different dimensions of the sanctuary: local, national and international., explains Bishop Hérouard to The cross. Two options open up, either to erect it into a national sanctuary, or of an international level. “. And after reflection, the first solution was chosen.
“ The difference is that the statutes are approved by the episcopal conference which also has a role to play in the management while for the international sanctuaries Rome intervenes directly. », Explains Mgr Hérouard. Thus, the world famous Sanctuary of Fatima in Portugal is national level, while that of Loreto, Italy, is considered international, although much less frequented.
An orientation council of the sanctuary
” One of the at stake is to better determine the role of the main actors in the life of the sanctuary, between the bishop of the diocese, the rector, the chaplains and the others », Continues the apostolic delegate. And among these other actors, according to Mgr Nicolas Brouwet, bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes, are “Lhe bishops of France, whose pilgrimages to Lourdes are always a highlight in the life of their diocese “.
In the statutes which will be put to the votes of the bishops, the rector of Lourdes will henceforth be appointed by the permanent council of the Conference of Bishops of France (CEF), on the proposal of the bishop of the diocese. Likewise, a sanctuary guidance council will be set up with other bishops appointed by the CEF to discuss the life of the sanctuary and its development. ” It is always the bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes and the rector with their advice who will give his orientations to the sanctuary, insists Bishop Brouwet, even if French bishops will participate in their definition. “
Towards entry into force in early 2021
However, this does not mean that the Marian city will be stripped of its Pyrenean identity, quite the contrary. “ The statutes provide an organizational framework for a time, again specifies the local bishop, they will not change the deep identity of a place like Lourdes. Mary did not appear between heaven and earth but in a particular place, a parish, a diocese, a land with its history. She was talking Bigourdan to Bernadette. ” So many affirmations on which Mgr Hérouard also insists.
Presented to the bishops of France on Friday 6 November, these new statutes will be submitted to the votes of the bishops on Saturday 7 November. In the event of a positive vote, these new statutes will be sent to Rome for approval – which should not pose any difficulty, since they were drawn up in conjunction with the services of the dicastery concerned.
For Mgr Hérouard, it is possible that they will come into force at the beginning of 2021. As for his mission as apostolic delegate “ at the disposal of the Holy See », It could end soon after.