Aparecida (Agenzia Fides) - The feast of Our Lady of Aparecida, which is celebrated every year on October 12, takes place for the first time without the popular Marian pilgrimages, which had to be canceled due to the pandemic. Fear for the future is putting the Marian sacred place in crisis, which was one of the most visited in the world. The sanctuary, which is dedicated to the patron saint of the country, is one of the most famous pilgrimage sites at an International level: according to the latest data recorded before the health crisis, about 13 million people from all five continents made pilgrimages there every year; in just one weekend there were more than 200,000. The Eucharist celebrations with thousands of people in a church that can hold 20,000 people are also impressive.
But with the pandemic, things have changed. The pilgrimages are no longer possible, many believers no longer visit the basilica for fear of crowds. "Today everything has become a desert", said Father José Ulises da Silva, spokesman for the sanctuary. "We can no longer allow - he explained sadly - the arrival of organized pilgrimages. "Today, after the reopening, in compliance with the health protocol, we can only welcome a maximum of a thousand pilgrims a day". We will have to wait a long time before the great pilgrimages are possible again.
A resumption is planned when an effective vaccine against Covid-19 is available. In order to meet the spiritual needs of the faithful, the sanctuary relies on the media: "During the lockdown", said Father José Ulises da Silva, "the celebrations were broadcast on our television and radio stations and on social networks, here the participation of people increased dramatically. At that moment, in order to get everyone to participate, we have multiplied masses". Today's feast of the Virgin of Aparecida, celebrated on October 12th, also takes place virtually, although the physical presence of a limited number of believers is allowed in the sanctuary.
"Despite the extreme difficulties, the willingness to pray has never decreased. On the contrary, it has increased. People feel the living presence of Our Lady. The Virgin of Aparecida has always been seen as the Virgin of the poor, the people, affected by the difficulties of life", concluded the religious. (CE) (Agenzia Fides, 12/10/2020)