Catholic Pilgrims Rally Behind Terror-Hit France In Lourdes

(AFP) – Thousands of Catholic pilgrims offered up prayers for terror-scarred France during Assumption celebrations on Monday in Lourdes, held under tight security after last month’s massacre in Nice and murder of a priest. The gathering at the shrine in the foothills of the Pyrenees is the first major Catholic event in France since priest Jacques Hamel was killed in his church on July 26. Undeterred by the threat, an estimated 22,000 pilgrims from across Europe, the Middle East and Asia descended on the Lourdes shrine for one of the biggest dates in the Christian calendar, marking the ascent into Heaven of the Virgin Mary. “We’ve come to pray for peace in the world, which seems to be in chaos,” said Piet Tarappa, a businessman who was among a group of 35 Indonesians from Jakarta. Security was tight ahead for the annual four-day pilgrimage, which culminated with an open-air mass Monday at the spot where Mary is said to have appeared to a shepherd girl in 1858. Soldiers in fatigues with automatic rifles slung over their shoulders watched over the ceremony as a helicopter flew overhead. In total, 500 security force members were deployed to protect the worshippers, who had