The French shrine known as Our Lady of Lourdes has shut down its world-famous waters, thought by many believers to have “healing” powers if you bathe in them, due to fears of the novel coronavirus.
The closure of the allegedly curative Lourdes waters comes as more and more people are testing positive for coronavirus in Europe, according to the Catholic News Service.
“Our first concern will always be the safety and health of the pilgrims and the shrine’s working community,” said a note posted Feb. 28 on the shrine’s website. “As a precaution, the pools have been closed until further notice.”
The waters, which pilgrims also drink because of its alleged healing properties, have been studied and shown not to have any healing abilities. Still, they hold a special place for believers and will now be under restrictions.
A monitoring cell within the French sanctuary is keeping abreast of the situation and adapting measures as the situation changes.
A message from the Shrine said, “This epidemic is… an opportunity to pray more and to ask for the intercession of Our Lady.”
The Shrine information says that though it is “highly unlikely that the Coronavirus will spread through the water”, nonetheless, the baths where sick pilgrims normally bathe in the hope of healing, are closed because they “are a place where people are more exposed because they are bare”.
Yesterday, we covered the phenomenon of Catholic churches in the U.S. removing access to holy water to protect parishioners from the spreading virus. We said that it was a good thing that religious institutions were listening to scientists, instead of just praying for immunity, but also pointed out the obvious irony. The same principle applies here.
That being said, this could be handled better. In response to the threat, the shrine is encouraging followers to “pray more” and even personally wetting their faces with the water from the cave flowing through the fountains. That water, they say, is treated with virucide throughout the day.
But neither recommendation addresses the real issue. The shrine isn’t, as far as I can see, encouraging worshipers to wash their hands thoroughly throughout the day. It is pushing them to wet their faces in their fountains while a potential outbreak looms. By doing so, they could be negating the closure of the pools.
They’d be better off closing the shrine entirely until the threat dissipates.
(Image via Shutterstock)