The Decree

Détail d'un vitrail de la basilique de l'Immaculée Conception à Lourdes

On 28th July 1858, the bishop of Lourdes launched a commission of enquiry into the supposed apparitions of the Virgin Mary at the Grotto of Massabielle: the task would last four years, culminating, on 18th January 1862, in a Decree which officially recognised the apparitions.

The official recognition of the apparitions of Lourdes by the Church was based on the crucial testimony of Bernadette Soubirous and a meticulous work of enquiry, discernment and prayer.

In the Sanctuary of Lourdes, entering the Immaculate Conception Basilica, on the right aisle, the solemn declaration of the bishop of the apparitions, Bishop Laurence, is engraved in marble, “We judge that the Immaculate Mary, Mother of God, really appeared to Bernadette Soubirous, on 11th February 1858 and the following days, eighteen times, in the grotto of Massabielle, near the city of Lourdes; that this apparition assumes all the characteristics of the truth, and that the faithful have reason to believe it beyond doubt. We humbly submit our judgment to the judgment of the Supreme Pontiff, who is charged with governing the universal Church”. This declaration of the bishop of Tarbes was crucial: four years after the apparitions, on 18th January 1862, in the name of the Church, he recognised them as authentic.

Bishop Laurence did not let things drag on: the 18 apparitions took place between 11th February and 16th July 1858, and on 28th July he constituted a Commission of Enquiry “to collect and to ascertain the facts which have happened or which could still occur in or around the grotto of Lourdes, to report them to us, to highlight their nature, and thus to provide us with the components necessary for us to reach a conclusion”…