Thousands flock to cathedral for historic visit of saint’s relics

Wednesday 21st September 2022

Thousands of people queued outside Salford Cathedral this week to pray before the remains of a much-loved saint.

People of all ages from across the diocese turned out to see the gleaming golden reliquary that houses the relics of St Bernadette during an historic visit this September.

Described as a once-in-a-lifetime visit, the relics rested in our cathedral for two days, as they made their way across England, Wales, and Scotland for the first ever time.

During the visit, thousands of people attended the cathedral during a series of open visits, services, and Masses, leaving standing room only as pilgrims flocked to share in this rare experience.

From the full ceremony of packed-out Masses to humble night-time vigils for private prayer, our diocese was truly blessed to be part of this unforgettable experience.

The visit began on Tuesday 20 September, when almost 1000 schoolchildren from across the diocese took part in a special service and activity session to learn more about relics, our faith, and the story of St Bernadette.

More than 40 priests then arrived to take part in a diocesan Mass of Welcome, presided over by Bishop John, who spoke of the unique relationship of St Bernadette and Our Lady, and urged us – like the saint – to trust Mary, to speak to her, to bring to her our troubles, so we, too, can live in the peace of Christ.

He said: “I think we need to tell Our Lady a lot about ourselves and our world. We can’t lose hope because that’s a signature of who we are as Christians, but we do need Our Lady’s help and we need to keep that sense of prayer in our lives as we ask her to listen to us.

“I want to challenge you. I want to suggest that we find a quiet place, maybe in our sitting rooms or wherever. Nice and quiet, on our own, sitting comfortably, and imagine that sitting close by us is Our Lady, looking at us with that wonderful smile and staring at us intently.

“We can imagine her saying to us: “how very good to see you, tell me all about yourself I really want to know who you are. I want to know about the good things in your life, the challenges, the problems, the decisions, because then I know what I’ve got to say to my Son for you and about you.””

After the Mass of Welcome, the afternoon then saw the first of our open visits, welcoming in the queue of pilgrims that had snaked its way through the cathedral grounds and into the surrounding streets, before a Mass of Vocation and Youth Vigil filled the cathedral once more.

Drawing the day to a close was a moving celebration of light, where hundreds of people recited The Rosary and sang hymns in a sea of candlelight, after which a vigil of private prayer took place until midnight.

Hundreds more pilgrims arrived the next morning for more open visits, until the Mass of Anointing packed out the cathedral once again. This moving Mass has a special focus on praying for the sick, a tradition that is most associated with pilgrimages to Lourdes, the site of many miraculous healings.

After more pilgrims continued their prayerful visits in the afternoon, the visit of the beloved saint was brought to a close with a final Thanksgiving Mass and Farewell Service.

We would like to thank everyone who made this historic visit such a wonderful occasion, particularly our Salford Lourdes Pilgrimage Coordination Team, our volunteers who worked tirelessly around the clock, and everyone who came in their droves to be part of this cherished memory.

If you would like to find out more about the visit of the relics and the story of St Bernadette, you can download our digital booklet by clicking here.

As we say farewell to the relics, we would like to remind you that our diocesan pilgrimage to Lourdes will be returning in 2023, where you can relive the blessings of this visit in the very spot Our Lady appeared to St Bernadette. The pilgrimage will take place between Friday 28th July and Thursday 3rd August. Find out more at

Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us.

Saint Bernadette, pray for us.

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