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Holy water seized on Vatican flights

The passengers on board the Vatican's first flight to Lourdes may have been pilgrims in search of spiritual healing but they still had to obey anti-terrorism rules, it has emerged.

Several of them had their holy water confiscated.

The Vatican's new service, a Boeing 737 painted in yellow-and-white papal livery, took off from Fiumicino airport, in Rome, on Monday, serving swordfish canapes to 148 pilgrims reclining on headrests stamped with the message: "I search for your face, oh Lord."

While the outward journey was smooth, turbulence struck on the return when anti-terror rules were strictly applied by the French police.

No bottles containing more than 100ml of liquid were allowed on board unless checked in, meaning passengers were forced to give up the holy water they had just collected at Lourdes.

Many hoped to ferry the water back to sick relatives. Instead, dozens of plastic containers in the shape of the Madonna were left at security, while one man drank his.

"I did tell others that their containers would not be allowed. Those who travel a lot know there are no exceptions," said Massimo Barra, the head of the Red Cross in Italy.

Monsignor Liberio Andreatta, the official on board from the Vatican's travel agency, did not even try to argue with the rules, to the dismay of the pilgrims.

Many passengers asked the police how they could be so foolhardy as to throw away the miraculous water, according to the Corriere della Sera newspaper. The spring at the sanctuary at Lourdes, where the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared in 1858, is famed for its miraculous healing powers.

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