For many years, the Lourdes Authorities asked every Pilgrimage to take a special collection during its Pilgrimage which was to be classed as the official “pilgrimage collection for the Sanctuary”. This worked well for us for many years and the people of our pilgrimage were very generous to that collection, as to all the other collections that were taken at other Masses during pilgrimage week.
In recent years, the Lourdes Sanctuary authorities changed this system and started asking each pilgrimage to “pay” a levy of €1 per day per pilgrim, capped at €5 for those in our situation in Lourdes for longer than 5 days. So for the last few years, every pilgrimage has been asked to make this contribution from its pilgrimage funds. So for example, Hexham and Newcastle, registering say, 450 pilgrims was asked to make a contribution of €2,250. For a couple of years, we paid this from our central funds, however, not able to sustain this, in the last two years we have had to add this to the price of the pilgrimage.
In November 2017 we were informed that this “contribution” would increase to €2 per pilgrim per day, which in our case would add up to €14. After some representation from UK Pilgrimage Directors and Tour Operators, the Sanctuary authorities have agreed to cap it at €10 for those pilgrimage in Lourdes for 5 days or more. But the payment has to be made by the pilgrimage, so unfortunately we have had to add an extra £5 to everyone’s fare for 2018 to cover this “Sanctuary Contribution”.
In 2019, this contribution will rise to €2.50 per pilgrim per day, which will work out at €12.50 per pilgrim; and in 2020 it will be €3 per pilgrim per day which will be €15 per pilgrim. The only way that we can pay this “contribution” is if we add it to the overall fare of the pilgrimage and so unfortunately this is what we will have to do. Over the next three years, the H and N Pilgrimage organisers will have to add this amount onto the fare of every pilgrim, in addition to increased charges from the Tour Operator due to exchange rates, fuel costs, hotel costs, tax de sejour, etc etc.