The relics of St Bernadette will be displayed at three venues within the diocese in October during what is being described as a “once-in-a-lifetime” tour of England, Scotland and Wales.
The organisers say it is an opportunity for people of all ages and backgrounds to experience the special gifts and charisms of Lourdes in a church or cathedral near them.
The relics will arrive at St Mary’s Cathedral in Middlesbrough at noon on Sunday October 2, leaving at 1pm the following day.
They will then be welcomed at Ampleforth Abbey at 1.30pm on Monday October 3, departing at 5pm the same day.
The relics will then return to our diocese at 7pm on Wednesday October 5, at Our Lady of Lourdes and St Peter Chanel Church in Hull, where they will remain until 7am the following morning.
It is hoped the tour will be as successful as the tour of the relics of St Thérèse of Lisieux. Thousands visited St Mary’s Cathedral when it remained open for the full 22 hours of their visit in October 2009 and in 2016 two relics of St Anthony of Padua were venerated there.
St Bernadette’s relics will also be taken to a prison and several hospices and an ecumenical event will be held in Liverpool
Cardinal Vincent Nichols said: “There are two objectives in this – one is to encourage people to come into church again and to enter into the spirit of the simplicity of Bernadette’s life and openness to God.
“The second is obviously to enter into the practice of pilgrimages to Lourdes itself. The message of Lourdes is very remarkable.
“There is a certain turning on the head of contemporary priorities when you go to Lourdes that is strengthening and affirming for many people.”
Bernadette Soubirous was born in 1844, one of eight children in a very poor family. Although initially unremarkable, Bernadette’s life was to inspire generations of people to journey in faith on pilgrimage to Lourdes.
Between February 11 and July 16 1858, Bernadette saw the Virgin Mary 18 times in a series of apparitions that took place in cave now known as the Grotto of Massabielle, on the outskirts of Lourdes.
During these miraculous encounters, Bernadette, then aged just 14, became the friend and confidante of Our Lady.
The apparitions were authenticated in 1866 by the Bishop of Tarbes. In that same year, Bernadette left Lourdes to live out her religious vocation within the community of the Sisters of Charity of Nevers.
She stayed at the convent until she died, not leaving even to attend the opening of a new basilica at Lourdes in 1876.
She suffered grievously asthma and tuberculosis and died aged 35 on April 16 1879. When her body was exhumed in 1909 it was found incorrupt, preserved from decomposition. She was canonised in 1933.
The tour will leave Lourdes on Thursday September 1 and return to the shrine on Tuesday November 1.
For full details, visit the special website, stbernadette.org.uk, which includes the tour schedule the story of Bernadette and the apparitions, information about relics and resources including prayers, liturgies and music.
For more information, visit stbernadette.org.uk.