Pilgrimage, the Assumptionists and Catholic Evangelisation in a Changing Europe: Lourdes and Plovdiv

John Eade


The rapid development of academic research into pilgrimage in Europe has encouraged an exploration of the growing links which have emerged between west and east Europe after the collapse of the ‘Iron Curtain’ in 1989. This recent development has to be set within a longer historical perspective, however, and analysis must consider not only religious contexts but also the influence of political, economic and cultural processes at local, national and international levels. These related processes are examined here through an analysis of the development of a major Roman Catholic in the south-west corner of France – Lourdes - and the ways in which the Assumptionist Order and the Vatican sought to link this shrine to an evangelising mission in south-eastern Europe during the late 19th and early twentieth century. This leads on to a discussion of the Bulgarian Catholic Church during the Communist period, Vatican policy and the revival of links between the Bulgarian church and Lourdes after 1989, focussing on the Assumptionist’s role in Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second largest city. These links between Lourdes and Plovdiv are part of a wider process where the shrine’s officials seek to respond toglobal forces, cultural diversity and geopolitical change.

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