Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Ingrid Betancourt: a witness to faith and to love of the Virgin

The website of the shrine at Lourdes has just alerted me to an aspect of Ingrid Betancourt's liberation from captivity in the Colombian jungle that appears to have escaped the media attention.
During [Ingrid Betancourt's] captivity, her mother, Madame Yolanda Pulecio Velez, expressed the wish to go with her daughter to the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes: "When Ingrid is freed, our first journey will be to Lourdes, together. I have promised it to the Virgin".
Ingrid Betancourt visited Lourdes on 12th July, with her mother, her children, her sister and her nephews/nieces. Two reports of her visit can be found here and here, on the Lourdes blog. There are also two video clips on the "multimedia" area of the Lourdes main website. Sorry, all in French. Herewith my translation of part of the coverage from the website:

Since her arrival in the Marian city yesterday evening, very contradictory information has circulated. Would she come to the torchlight procession for the feast of St Benedict, patron of Europe? Would she go to the town hall to receive the medal of the town? It was finally at the grotto, and only there, that she wished to show herself, symbolically, after having prayed for more than an hour before the Blessed Sacrament, in the Adoration Chapel of the shrine .... "What has touched me about this woman is the peaceful coherence between her strong faith, the love of her family, and her commitment to the service of others", observed the bishop "guardian of the grotto" (Bishop Jacques Perrier of Lourdes and Tarbes). He insisted on the secret of Ingrid Betancourt "To live for ... ". She left Lourdes this afternoon, after a pilgrimage of 24 hours which will go down in history.
At the end of her visit to the Grotto, during which she led the praying of two decades of the Rosary, Ingrid Betancourt thanked the Virgin for her freedom and asked her to help the hostages who remain behind. There is a lovely moment in the video on the Lourdes website where Ingrid exchanges a look with her mother.

What I had not noticed (perhaps not having a television contributed to this, perhaps not) was that when Ingrid Betancourt was reunited with her mother on the tarmac of the airfield in Bogota she knelt down in prayer with her mother and some of the other released hostages, praying particularly for the hostages who remain in Colombia. I have just looked at a photograph of this on the BBC news website - and the whole thing looks perfectly natural and unpretentious. [Amusingly, the "label" that shows when your mouse hovers over the picture reads "Ingrid Betancourt ... prays next to her mother Yolando Pelucia and 11 other hostages during a press conference after their arrival at the Catam airbase in Bogota" whereas the rather banal visible caption reads "There was a huge sigh of relief as the hostages arrived in the capital, Bogota, on Wednesday."]

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