French Catholic Church countslosses after Pope's visit to Lourdes

18th August 2004, Comments 0 comments

CASTELGANDOLFO, Italy, Aug 18 (AFP) - Pope John Paul II gave thanks on Wednesday for the strength which enabled him to make a weekend pilgrimage to Lourdes, which French bishops said had made a loss for the Catholic Church of EUR 1.3 million.

CASTELGANDOLFO, Italy, Aug 18 (AFP) - Pope John Paul II gave thanks on Wednesday for the strength which enabled him to make a weekend pilgrimage to Lourdes, which French bishops said had made a loss for the Catholic Church of EUR 1.3 million.

"I want to give thanks to God, who in His goodness, allowed me to go on a pilgrimage to Lourdes," the pope told hundreds of pilgrims during his weekly general audience in the courtyard of his summer residence outside Rome.

The pope was short of breath, but appeared to be in better health than during his visit, when he showed signs of exhaustion. The 84-year-old pontiff suffers from Parkinson's disease.

The Catholic Church in France was meanwhile counting the huge cost of the visit, and left pondering ways of how to make up a EUR 1.3 million shortfall after donations from the pilgrims failed to match costs.

"We are making an appeal for donations, because the Sanctuaries (at Lourdes) do not have the means to support it and if we really must, we will take out a loan," the bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes, Monsignor Jacques Perrier, told AFP.

Perrier said only EUR 200,000 had been raised by donations against the EUR 1.5 million (USD 1.8 million) cost of the visit.

"Our system of donations didn't work because we had worked on the assumption that people would head into the sanctuaries very slowly, which would have allowed more time to ask pilgrims to make donations," said Perrier. The Church had sought a EUR 10 donation from pilgrims.

"In fact, pilgrims entered very swiftly as people were in a hurry to find a good place" for John Paul II's open air mass on Sunday. "On top of that, the French reflex of 'It's the Church so it’s free' also played a part," said the bishop.

Perrier said earlier this month the cost of the visit would be met by donations.

In Castelgandolfo, John Paul II devoted his weekly audience to thanksgiving and greeting pilgrims in several languages.

"I thank the blessed Virgin for the climate of deep meditation and intense prayer of this meeting, recalling with emotion the pilgrims in such numbers, first among them, the sick, who came to look to Our Lady for comfort and hope," he said.

"That the young people present will keep the memory of this pilgrimage and find in it the strength to become free men and women in Christ."

© AFP

Subject: French news

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