Lourdes for Religion 0718

In this Friday, May 8, 2020, photo, priests attend a televised mass in the sacred grotto, in Lourdes, southwestern France. One of the Catholic Church’s holiest sites, Lourdes, had its first-ever online pilgrimage on Thursday, to mark the anniversary of claims by young 19th-century girl Bernadette Soubirous that the Virgin Mary appeared to her.

PARIS — One of the Catholic Church’s holiest sites, Lourdes, held its first-ever online pilgrimage on Thursday, July 16, 2020, to mark the anniversary of claims by 19th-century girl Bernadette Soubirous that the Virgin Mary appeared to her.

July 16 marks the anniversary of Bernadette’s visions, and the discovery of allegedly healing spring waters. It led the church to build a cathedral there in southern France near the Pyrenees.

The day-long celebrations included Masses, processions and prayers, in addition to priests and guests speaking about how Lourdes has impacted their lives. It was called “Lourdes United,” and was broadcast all day until 10 p.m.

As well as being a holy site, Lourdes also attracts around 3 million pilgrims a year — the second most popular place after Paris — and the region’s tourism has badly suffered during the coronavirus crisis.