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The Roman Catholic church’s annual Assumption celebrations took put in Lourdes on Saturday with much less pilgrims than usual producing the excursion to the south-west of France since of the global health and fitness crisis.

For the very first time, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of Point out and suitable-hand man of Pope Francis, presided above the mass at the grotto, providing a information of “hope” to a “world that is familiar with darkness, fear”, referring in individual to the coronavirus pandemic, AFP reports.

Just about 5,000 pilgrims took their area in the Basilica of Saint Pius X, a gigantic underground church as massive as two football fields, which can maintain five periods as several.

The organisers then closed accessibility to the underground basilica, inviting pilgrims to abide by on screens outdoors.

“It’s strange. There are not quite a few individuals this yr,” claimed Michel Clavel, a retired 66-12 months-outdated truck driver, who will come each and every calendar year for the Assumption pilgrimage.

“In general, 15 August is the massive group. Because of the coronavirus, there are no organised visits for unwell folks who appear [by] teach, airplane or mentor.”

Sporting a mask was obligatory and scrupulously revered.

A handful of dozen sufferers, some in wheelchairs, were being in the front row but since of the sanitary safeguards, the big numbers of individuals in bad wellbeing who normally travel to Lourdes in look for of a miraculous overcome ended up absent.

The cave exactly where, in accordance to Catholic tradition, the Virgin Mary appeared to Bernadette Soubirous in 1858, is closed to the general public, simply because pilgrims are employed to putting their arms on the walls and kissing the stone.

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Soon after a two-thirty day period closure the sanctuaries of Lourdes have been step by step opening up, but the large contingents of overseas pilgrims are missing and several hotels and memento outlets remain closed.

Worshippers leave after attending the Sunday mass in front of a reduced number of faithfuls due to sanitary measures, in the Saint Pie X Basilica in Lourdes, on 15 August, 2020, as part of the 147th Assumption pilgrimage.

Worshippers go away immediately after attending the Sunday mass in the St-Pie X Basilica in Lourdes, 15 August, 2020, as portion of the 147th Assumption pilgrimage. Photograph: Georges Gobet/AFP/Getty Photographs

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