CDG Airport Prayer Area

Father Francis Truptil used to be Chaplain in the French army. He has seen the horrors of war up-close, taking care of soldiers’ mental and spiritual health.

Father Truptil is now the Chaplain for tens of thousands of passengers who move daily in and out of one of the world’s busiest airports. He will serve mass to anyone, adapting the service to all religions. Jews and Muslims have their own room adapted to their specific needs, but there are neither Rabies nor Imams working at the airport.

Greeting passengers with chocolates -it’s Christmas time and “no one ever says no to chocolate”- Father Truptil goes through the ceremony with spirit, his chants colored by the rythm of his military past.

People leave the prayer area reassured, feeling their plane trip will somehow be safer.

I only scratched the surface of the airport’s prayer areas, shooting on deadline for the French daily La Croix. Father Truptil was enthused over the idea of seeing more of me working on the subject, but the airport’s press officer denied me further access based on non-credible arguments.

But I’ll be back!

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Lourdes National Piglrimage

Mid-August I covered the six-day 2009 Lourdes national pilgrimage for CIRIC, the Bayard Presse photo agency. I travelled from Paris on the “White Train” chartered to transport 439 Assumptionist pilgrims -178 of which sick or disabled. It took three hours to board everyone, set-up the disabled on stretchers, stack all the wheelchairs in the restaurant wagon…

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The six-hour trip was rythmed over the train’s PA system by Father Marie-Bernard Kientz, preparing passengers for their pilgrimage with prayers and stories on Bernadette Soubirou.

In the White Train.

Lourdes is fellinian. It’s a well organized and very lucrative business. Amidst scores of cheap plastic religious memorabilia boutiques moves a crowd of tourists and pilgrims of all ages and origins. Daily processions, mass services, prayers at the Grotto, filling-up on water from the miraculous spring, stocking-up on souvenirs, the pilgrim’s day is packed with rituals. It can feel like Disneyland, trying all the rides.

But there’s obviousely more to Lourdes. During the time spent covering the pilgrimage I saw people genuinely care for each-other. A great human experience, even for a non-believer.

 

 

 

 

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