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No. 6469

August 20 2010 £1.20 (Republic of Ireland €1.70)

Lourdes is evacuated after serious bomb threat


TENS OF THOUSANDS of pilgrims were evacuated from the Lourdes complex after a bomb scare on one of the shrine’s busiest days.

A bomb threat at the French Marian shrine on the feast of the Assumption caused police in the town in the Hautes-Pyrénées to clear the entire shrine complex as they searched for explosive devices.

The police moved 30,000 people from the Basilica of the Rosary, the underground basilica of St Pius X, l’Hospitalité Notre Dame de Lourdes as well as the grotto where St Bernadette saw the Virgin Mary and the baths where pilgrims seek cures. At around midday pilgrims were asked in six different languages to make their way to the nearest exit via loudspeakers.

One English pilgrim from London said the evacuation was conducted quietly and without panic.

She said: “People were remarkably quiet and there was no rush or panic. Of course we didn’t know what was going on at the time. We sat in one of the local cafes and had a good chat. I noticed lots of people availing of the opportunity to take the tourist ‘train’ and see Lourdes and the outskirts.”

Police in the Lourdes commissariat received a threatening phone call at 11:39am, which was traced to a public telephone box very close to the Sanctuary.

The anonymous caller said four bombs were due to explode at the Sanctuary at around 3pm.

René Bidal, prefect of the area of Hautes-Pyrénées, said: “The phone call came from a phone cabin very close to the Sanctuary by a man with a thick Mediterranean accent who seemed very determined.”

He said: “We need to envisage the hypothesis seriously. In a site as symbolic as Lourdes one had to take such calls seriously.”

The police combed the area for explosive devices with dogs and found nothing. John Tangney, a British pilgrim tour operator, said he had 300 pilgrims at the Sanctuary on the day of the bomb scare but they had not been too inconvenienced by Sunday’s events. He said the incident might have negative consequences for the shrine, such as increased security.

He said: “I am quite certain that this sort of threat is not a unique occurrence. They must get threats which they discount quite regularly. The question is, why on this occasion was the bomb alert taken seriously?

“It was taken as quite a serious alert. Why out of all the alerts did they respond to this one? There are already security guards and cameras.

“What would be a tragedy for Lourdes is if this event resulted in higher security measures with security arches and such things for access to it,” he said. He added that such measures would make it more difficult for disabled pilgrims to access the shrines.

In the late afternoon the shrine was reopened for pilgrims taking part in the Eucharistic procession – the high point in Lourdes celebrations – and normal events resumed.

Jean-Pierre Artiganave, the mayor of Lourdes, said: “Lourdes has the good fortune to welcome dignified and respectful people who waited quietly and then entered into the calm.”

Oblate Fr Brian de Búrca, the English-language coordinator for the shrine, said he was first alerted to the news of the bomb scare through text messages and a phone call from England and Ireland asking if he was safe two hours after the sanctuary had been evacuated.

“Some time after 4pm,” he said. “I was called to the studio along with the other Oblate Language Coordinators to record a message saying that St Joseph’s Gate would open at approximately 4.45pm and that the Blessed Sacrament Procession would take place at 5pm starting...

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Pilgrims gather in front of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Lourdes after the bomb scare AP Photo

Archbishop sponsors refugees from Iraq


FOR TORONTO Archbishop Thomas Collins the fate of Iraqi Christians trapped in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon is not just another tough case in an unfair world full of too much suffering. For him, the situation is personal.

Archbishop Collins has written to his fellow bishops across Canada about the fate of Iraqi Christian refugees, asking them to encourage refugee sponsorship in their dioceses. He has urged priests in Toronto to get their parishes involved in sponsoring refugees.

He is also personally sponsoring a refugee family.

“Helping refugees is important in this world in which so many people are suffering, and I want personally to assist in this,” Archbishop Collins told the Catholic Register, a Canadian weekly, in an email.

Archbishop Collins, like any parish sponsoring a refugee family, will wait months before he gets to meet the family picked out for him by the archdiocesan office for refugees. But waiting times for Iraqis are among the shortest for privately sponsored refugees.

As a Christian community, the Catholic Church in Toronto should feel a special bond with Christian refugees from Iraq, said the archbishop.

“We should always seek to help any people who are suffering, and the people of our archdiocese have always done so,” Archbishop Collins wrote. “But at this time, many Christians are suffering because of their faith, and we need in a particular way to reach out to them.”

The archbishop created the office for refugees not long after becoming archbishop of Toronto. Last year he set a goal of doubling the number of refugees sponsored by parishes and religious communities in the archdiocese.

The archbishop’s example has made it easier to persuade parishes to be involved, said the refugee office’s executive director, Martin Mark.

Given the number of Catholics in Toronto who were refugees themselves or are descended from refugees, “it’s not a tough sell”, Mr Mark said. “In the Lithuanian Martyrs parish, which has nothing to do with Iraq, they understood years ago that regardless of whether [the refugees] are Lithuanian, if they are persecuted and we have the means to help, why not?”

Mr Mark spent all of July in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, interviewing refugee families and choosing 200 for future sponsorship through the office for refugees.

Heaven is not a location in the universe, says Pope Benedict XVI


HEAVEN is not a location in the cosmos, but a place within God where those who believe in him will enjoy his love forever, Pope Benedict XVI has said.

Celebrating an early morning Mass on the feast of the Assumption of Mary, the Pope said that when the Catholic Church affirms that Mary was taken, body and soul, into heaven, it is not referring “to some place in the universe, a star or something like that”.

“With the term ‘heaven’, we want to affirm that God – the God who made himself close to us – does not abandon us even in and beyond death, but he has a place for us and gives us eternity; we want to affirm that within God there is a place for us,” the Pope said.

Pope Benedict celebrated the Mass in the parish Church of St Thomas, just across the main square from the papal villa in Castel Gandolfo. A

few hours after the Mass, he led the recitation of the Angelus prayer with visitors gathered in the courtyard of the villa.

At the Mass and at the Angelus, the Pope said that in November the church will celebrate the 60th anniversary of Pope Pius XII’s solemn proclamation of the dogma of Mary’s assumption.

“We believe that Mary, like Christ her son, already has defeated death and triumphs now in heavenly glory with the totality of her being, ‘soul and body’,” he said at the Mass.

In addition, he said, the Church affirms that the heavenly glory Mary already enjoys is promised to all believers as well.

“To understand this reality a bit, we can look at our own lives. All of us have had the experience of someone dying, but continuing to live in a way in the memory and heart of those who knew and loved him or her,” the Pope said.

Sun worshippers courted by DJ priest

Catholic movie star dies from lung cancer


THE THREE S’s usually associated with beach holidays have rarely included sermons – until now. Italian Fr Roberto Fiscer has taken a new route to reach his flock.

Sporting a lemon yellow T-shirt with the legend “you are my river of love”, he plays chart-toppers laced with religious dialogue. Dorothy Norwood’s “Shake the Devil Off” is interspersed with the words: “I have a message for you that comes straight from heaven: without Jesus there is no future, without Jesus we have no love, no joy.”

Fr Fiscer, who has DJed every Wednesday at Arenzano’s San Petro resort since mid-June, said: “I alternate the classics that you hear in nightclubs with remixed religious music. Music is what young people like the most. Through music, Jesus reaches their hearts.”

The priest was formerly a cruise ship entertainer.


CATHOLIC actress Patricia Neal, who won an Oscar for best actress for her starring role as a housekeeper opposite Paul Newman in the 1963 film Hud, has died of lung cancer aged 84.

The convert starred in 68 films and television productions,

including Breakfast at Tiffany’s with Audrey Hepburn. Her 30-year marriage to British writer

, with whom she had five children, ended in divorce.

But she often said one of the biggest tragedies for her was the abortion she had as a young actress in Hollywood in 1950 after she became pregnant by actor Gary Cooper, who was married.

He also later converted to