(QCOSTARICA) This year, as 11 years ago, the Catholic Church has been forced to make the decision to cancel the traditional pilgrimage – romería – to the Basilica of Los Angeles to commemorate “La Negrita”, patron saint of Costa Rica.
The decision is due to the national emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the risk of contagion that pilgrimage entails.
“The Episcopal Conference had been reflecting on this decision, both within, and also at the diocesan level, in the concrete action of the National Shrine and with government entities, especially with the Ministry of Health, seeking greater awareness to accept the regulations health as a good for all in defense of life,” says the statement from the Catholic Church.
Nor can other public acts be held in honor of the La Virgen de los Ángeles, “because they put the health of Costa Ricans at risk,” says the document sent by the Diocese of Cartago.
The Catholic Church asks the faithful to keep their faith and they anticipate that they will soon announce other ways to develop this national holiday, including a virtual pilgrimage.
This will be the second time in the history of the romería, that goes way back to 1635, to be canceled. The first was in 2009 when the Church had to cancel the activity due to the H1N1 flu outbreak.
Every year, over a million people, complete the romería or pilgrimage to Cartago, Costa Rica from all over the country, even from other Central American countries, that takes place every August 2.
Their destination is the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Los Ángeles, the home to Costa Rica’s patron saint. Although some people travel to the Basilica by train, bus or car, the majority walk at least part of the way. Some walk from places like Perez Zeledon or even Guanacaste.
In the days before August 2, “romeros” – pilgrims- can be seen on the shoulders the major highways and roads leading to Cartago, where the last few kilometers vehicular traffic is completely blocked off or restricted for the safety of the faithful.
The last few meters from the entrance of the Catedral to the alter is on their knees.