A section of bone from the thigh of St Bernadette of Lourdes is to be taken to the major cathedrals and churches of the dioceses of England, Scotland and Wales in autumn 2022.
It will give British Catholics the chance to make a personal pilgrimage to the French saint, to venerate her and to pray for her intercession.
The Right Reverend Mark Davies, the Bishop of Shrewsbury, said: “I look forward to welcoming the relics of St Bernadette of Lourdes to this Shrewsbury Diocese. Many pilgrims have journeyed to Lourdes over the years to pray alongside St Bernadette – and now it seems Lourdes is coming to us by the visit of the relics."
It is hoped that the tour will be as successful as the visit of the relics of St Thérèse of Lisieux to Britain in 2009, which attracted a quarter of a million people to queue up to pray at the side of the casket of the “Little Flower” and in 2012 the relic of the heart of St John Vianney, the patron of parish priests, was brought to the Diocese of Shrewsbury, as well as to the neighbouring archdioceses of Liverpool and Birmingham.
Canon Christopher Thomas, general secretary of the conference of the bishops of England and Wales, said the Shrine of Lourdes in the French Pyrenees approached the English and Welsh bishops with the offer of the pilgrimage of the relics and the bishops accepted.
He said: “The bishops saw this as not only something that will remind us of the importance of pilgrimage in our lives and the importance of the place of Lourdes in the life of many Catholics and dioceses in this country, but it will remind us of the centrality of the lives of the saints because this always points us to that greater degree of virtue that we are called to in our living of the Catholic faith.”
St Bernadette, whose real name was Marie Bernarde Soubisrous, was an illiterate French girl who received apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the age of 14 years.
Between February 11 and July 16 of 1858 St Bernadette witnessed apparitions at a natural cavity in the rock face, or grotto, at Massabielle at the side of the River Gave in the village of Lourdes. It became the most visited pilgrimage destination in Europe.
Bernadette was beatified in 1925 and canonised by Pope Pius XI as St Maria Bernarda on December 8, 1933, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Today, Lourdes continues to attract about five million pilgrims ever year.