Sunday, August 20, 2006

Fire Water v. Holy Water

Brits behaving badly, even in a church:

For millions of pilgrims, a visit to Lourdes to take its miraculous healing waters is an intensely spiritual experience. Since Bernadette Soubirous witnessed the first of 18 apparitions of the Virgin Mary almost 150 years ago, the shrine has become a place of quiet contemplation and religious devotion.

But now the town's peace is being shattered by thousands of British tourists whose behaviour has become so bad that officials have brought in riot police. ....

"We are carrying out late- night patrols because of the threat to public order caused by increasing numbers of night-time drinkers," a spokesman for the CRS said.

....In Lourdes's busy streets, there is plenty of evidence of alcohol-fuelled exuberance in the town's numerous bars and clubs.

At Bar Angelus, a few hundred yards from the shrine, bare-chested men, and women wearing skimpy tops and crucifixes, swayed to the blaring music including Madonna's Like A Virgin and Sympathy for the Devil by the Rolling Stones.

"We come here to party after being reverential all day," said Susan Clare, a 19-year-old student from south London.

...."We're just typical Brits enjoying ourselves," said Phil Cross, a 22-year-old from Manchester, who was accompanying a group of handicapped pilgrims.

"None of us mean any harm, but the situation can get a bit tense when the police take exception to what's going on. You do see a few of the older pilgrims who are still up late looking a bit worried by what's going on, but you're only young once."

Later, as the bars continued to serve cocktails at £2.50 a time, revellers were seen running across the roofs of parked cars, indulging in mock fights and vomiting into gutters. It is these types of crime, along with minor acts of vandalism and "lewd behaviour" between amorous young Roman Catholics, that dominate the nightly reports of CRS officers.

"Offenders from Britain are easy to spot because they usually all wear the same coloured T-shirts and hats," said one CRS officer. "Last week a couple sneaked into the grounds of the Rose Basilica and became very amorous in a very holy place. It's not the kind of thing other pilgrims want to see."

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