Lourdes and Bethlehem: a promising agreement
JERUSALEM – Following the signature on March 1, 2016, of a twinning agreement by the Municipalities of Bethlehem and Lourdes, a French delegation led by the Mayor of Lourdes came on a visit to the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem on the following day. It was an opportunity to come back on the importance and ambitions of this partnership which seeks to weave privileged relations between these two important sites of heritage.
A delegation from the Municipality of Lourdes, led the Mayor, Madame Josette Bourdeu, elected in April 2014, came to Bethlehem end February – early March 2016. On March 1 the two Municipalities of Bethlehem and Lourdes signed a twinning agreement of several points, namely training in tourism, and marketing of Palestinian handicraft for the welfare of local Christians.
On Wednesday March 2, the delegation was welcomed at the Latin Patriarchate by Bishop William Shomali, Patriarchal Vicar in Jerusalem and in Palestine, who warmly greeted this new agreement between the towns of Lourdes and Bethlehem.
Mrs. Bourdeu spoke about the “common destination lines” between these two towns which constitute prominent places of pilgrimage at world scale. “Without pilgrimages, Bethlehem would be a small forgotten town of Palestine and even of Lourdes” the Bishop of Jerusalem stated frankly, recalling with emotion his first visit to Lourdes and the “unforgettable welcome” of Cité Saint Pierre.
Through this new agreement, the Municipalities of Lourdes and Bethlehem, strengthening their links of brotherhood, pledged to cooperate more closely for their reciprocal tourist development, and also in the cultural and economic fields.
“It is basically a humanist program and a agreement of social and interacting economy”, said Mrs. Bourdeau, referring to the different projects meant to start this agreement, namely with the Palestinian and French youth, or between the municipalities and the religious circles. Already since 2012, a family from Bethlehem makes the “official rosary” of Our Lady of Lourdes sanctuary. All in all, some 25,000 rosaries per year, benefiting people of Palestine. Bishop Shomali encouraged these projects, calling on the Mayor of Lourdes and her assistants “to keep on sowing for a long time to come”.
The delegation was accompanied by Fr. Luc Pareydt, Advisor for Religious Affairs at the Consulate General of France in Jerusalem, who pointed out how “this agreement is meant to realize the expectations of the people of Bethlehem who tend to think that the French are forgetful of Palestine. Palestinians are in need of us.” The support to Christians of the East should not go unheeded and should be strengthened, the Jesuit Father said further, calling on the French, on Europeans in general, to “a capacity to see beyond”.
The town of Lourdes, embracing a sanctuary of world reputation, is twinned with the towns of Częstochowa and Fatima. Other agreements are also considered with the sanctuary of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico, and that of Aparecida in Brazil. The agreement sealed between Lourdes and Bethlehem is meant to bind the Holy Land with the sites of Mary’s devotion not only in Europe but also over the whole world.