(Aparecida, Brazil) The national holiday of Our Lady of Aparecida, which was celebrated on October 12th, presented an important novelty. The pilgrimages have been canceled due to pandemic. Fear for the future is putting into crisis at the Marian holy site, which was one of the most visited in the world. The shrine, dedicated to the Holy Patron of Brazil, is one of the most well-known religious structures internationally. According to the latest data recorded before the health crisis, there were 13 million pilgrims from the five continents who visited the shrine every year. In a single weekend, there were more than 200,000 devotees. The Eucharistic celebrations were attended by thousands of people in a Church that can hold 20,000 faithful.
Due to the pandemic, things have changed. Pilgrimages have stopped, many faithful no longer enter the Basilica for fear of the crowds and those flashy numbers have become a distant memory. “Today everything has become a desert,” said the Redemptorist priest José Ulises da Silva, spokesman for the shrine. “We can no longer allow the arrival of organized pilgrimages,” he explained desolately. Now, with the reopening after the closure and compliance with the health protocol, we can welcome a maximum of a thousand pilgrims a day.”
The resumption of large pilgrimages will have to wait a long time; perhaps it will only be possible when an effective vaccine against Covid-19 is made available. In the meantime, to fulfill the spiritual needs of the faithful, the mass media of the sanctuary are made use to its maximum, which during the shutdown have proved to be useful, almost essential: “During the national shutdown, says Father José Ulises da Silva, the celebrations were broadcast on our TV, radio and social networks, here the participation of people has increased dramatically. At that moment, in order to get everyone involved, we multiplied the masses.” The feast of the Virgin of Aparecida, which was celebrated on12 October, also took place mainly virtually, although small physical participation in the sanctuary was allowed.
“Despite the extreme difficulties, the prayers and offering of petitions have never stopped. On the contrary, it has grown. People feel the living presence of Our Lady. The Virgin of Aparecida has always been seen as Our Lady of the poor, of the black, of people affected by the difficulties of life,” the spokesman concluded.