As the number of people testing positive for the coronavirus in Europe continues to grow, the French Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes has announced that pilgrims are still welcome, but the pools the sick bathe in hoping for healing will be closed temporarily.
‘Our first concern will always be the safety and health of the pilgrims and the shrine’s working community,’ said a note posted on the shrine’s website. ‘As a precaution, the pools have been closed until further notice.’
In the centre of Rome, the French Church of St Louis, home of three famous Caravaggio paintings, closed on 1st March because a priest who had been resident at the church tested positive for the coronavirus upon returning to France on 28th February and was hospitalised. The 42-year-old priest is in satisfactory condition, the Archdiocese of Paris said.
The other two dozen members of the community of French priests at St Louis have been placed under a precautionary quarantine. The members include a priest who worked for Vatican Media in the former Vatican Radio building.
Paolo Ruffini, prefect of the Dicastery for Communication, wrote to Vatican media employees on 2nd March, saying the quarantine is expected to be brief, since the priest who tested positive for the virus left Rome in mid-February; he had travelled to several cities in northern Italy, where the outbreak has been much worse. In addition, the Vatican media employee had no symptoms.
‘As a prudential measure,’ Ruffini said, the Vatican City health and hygiene service ‘sanitised and cleaned the office of our colleague and common areas’ of the building.
The French Embassy to the Holy See announced late on 2nd March that Italian health officials had lifted the quarantine on the community at St Louis Church and that the church would reopen to the public on 4th March.
Picture: Caregivers push pilgrims in wheelchairs in 2014 at the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in France. (CNS photo/Paul Haring).