Mexicans flock to Guadalupe basilica before Covid-19 closure

Mexico City, Dec 4 (efe-epa).- Pilgrims lined up on Friday at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, a week before the public feast celebrations for Mexico’s patroness, when it will be closed to avoid large gatherings amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Mass at 2pm saw around 100 devotees lining up at the gates of the basilica, as on Dec. 12, the day of the feast, people will not be able visit the venue, which otherwise attracts large crowds on the occasion.

“Thinking that we cannot come on the 12th, we came earlier. They took our temperature and gave us a [sanitizing] gel, that’s all. They checked us to see we were fine,” Sofia Gonzalez, a faithful, told EFE at the church.

The first parishioner in line, Violeta Rosas, expressed the need to maintain safe distancing, before underlining that the pandemic needed reflection.

“People who have died from coronavirus are closer to God today. Those of us who stay to live the hardship are the ones here,” she said.

Rosas said that she visits the Basilica every year or at least celebrates the feast at her home.

“For 26 years I have come to the Basilica to thank Our Lady mainly for the favors she bestows on our family. It’s a tradition I acquired from my mom,” she said.

Each year, like Rosas, some 10 million pilgrims from across the country congregate on Dec. 12 at the Roman Catholic church in the capital to celebrate the feast of the Virgin.

However, this year the Mexico City authorities decided to close the Basilica from Dec. 10 to 13 to avoid concentrations of people due to the health risk it could entail, especially given that the city has recorded a large number of Covid-19 cases.

The Mexican Catholic Church has also tried to deter parishioners from going to the Basilica of Guadalupe and instituted a virtual program that includes an online pilgrimage.

Mexico City, the main hotspot of the novel coronavirus in the country, has recorded a total of 219,465 infections and 17,916 deaths, with an increase in number of hospitalizations over the last two months.

With 1.14 million confirmed cases and 108,000 dead, Mexico is the fourth on the list of countries with the most Covid-19 related deaths.

Against this situation, which has prompted the authorities to urge people to stay indoors, radiologist Hannibal Muñoz, who visited Virgin of Guadalupe on Friday, called upon parishioners to pay heed to the authorities and take necessary measures.

“It was being said that it affected the older lot, and now there are already cases of young people. We are seeing a lot of Covid cases in hospitals,” he warned.

The cult of the Virgin of Guadalupe began in 1531, when the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared on Dec. 12 before peasant Juan Diego Cuauhtlatohuac, who became the first indigenous Native American to be canonized in 2002. EFE-EPA


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