Plea to Pope for help as floods devastate Lourdes
Officials in Lourdes are looking to the Pope to intervene after the worst floods in a century turned the Roman Catholic shrine into a disaster zone, with tens of thousands of pilgrims unable to visit for the foreseeable future.
Locals said the shrine's famous grotto now looks like a vision of "the apocalypse" and is closed to the public, still submerged under a metre of mud.
Much of the site, which draws six million visitors each year, will be in no fit state to open in the coming weeks when high season begins, local officials have warned.
Chapels and the bathing pools filled with water that pilgrims believe has curative powers lie in ruins after being overrun by fierce floodwaters that thundered through the town. Only the Basilica of Our Lady remains unscathed.
Three people have died in the south-western region in the floods and the French government is due to declare parts of the region a "disaster zone".
"It's catastrophic. We cannot see how we could re-open in acceptable conditions in the weeks to come," Mathias Terrier, the sanctuary's communications director, said.
Meanwhile, Bishop Brendan Leahy of Limerick will celebrate a special Mass this weekend for the 500 pilgrims who had their trip to Lourdes cancelled due to the floods. (© Daily Telegraph, London)