By Eduard Ribas i Admetlla
Mexico City, Dec 12 (efe-epa).- In yet another unprecedented impact of the coronavirus, the basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City remained closed on Saturday on the feast day of “Our Lady of Guadalupe,” dashing the dreams of millions of people who take part in the world’s largest Catholic pilgrimage every year.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador hailed on social networks “the responsibility of the people of Mexico in the face of the pandemic” by not going to the church dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe, the highly venerated patron saint of Latin America also known the Virgin of Guadalupe.
Amid a spike in Covid-19 infections in the capital, the basilica was cordoned off Friday to prevent the traditional pilgrimage of about 12 million people that each year results in a massive crowd around it.
“We already had to come, as far as we could go, the important thing is to undertake the walk,” said 26-year-old Daniel. who walked for seven hours from the south of the capital wearing a facemask and carrying an image of the Virgin to ask her for health and work.
His congregation was forced to cancel a pilgrimage from the neighboring state of Puebla in November but Daniel did not even consider canceling.
So, along with two friends, he slipped past the police cords through the alleyways until he came within a block of the church and couldn’t move any closer.
“It makes me sad because we are used to arriving every year at the basilica and (this year) we could not,” he said near the church, which had previously only been closed during religious persecution in the 1920s and for repairs.
There were few like Daniel who tried. The pandemic dampened the fervor and left no trace of the usual swarms of people, nor of the tents of the pilgrims who camp in the area or of the sacrifices of the most devoted, who arrive at the temple on their knees to thank Our Lady for miracles.
Only small groups of disciples peered through the gates to pray as close as possible to the basilica amid repeated pleas by the police to maintain a healthy distance from each other.
First, the Independence Day, then the Day of the Dead and now the Day of the Virgin is latest in the list of sacred festivities that Mexicans have had celebrate from their homes owing to an epidemic that has claimed the lives of at least 113,000 Mexicans.
Susana adapted to the new times and set up an altar full of flowers and candles in her house in honor of the Virgin, sang the traditional “Mañanitas” to her on Friday night and followed Mass online.
Pope Francis himself granted, at the request of the Mexican church, a plenary indulgence to Catholics around the world celebrating the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe at home.
However, tradition pushed Susana to visit the basilica with her niece’s children.
“I said we may able to enter and exit quickly but we couldn’t and we must understand the situation,” she said.
After asking the Guadalupe from afar “to get rid of the coronavirus”, Susana returned home content, convinced her faith had passed through the gates.
“Having our Brunette (Our Lady), I’m happy. Having the Virgin and God, I’m happy,” she said.
But the same cannot be said of those who have shops at the foothills of Tepeyac, the hill in the capital where, according to tradition, the Virgin appeared to indigenous Juan Diego on Dec. 12, 1531.
These Guadalupana shops, which do brisk business every December, were trapped within the police perimeter, full of officials and sweepers but bereft of pilgrims.
Despite his huge catalog of virgins of all sizes, Rafael only earned 30 pesos ($1.50) during the most anticipated morning of the year.