After Lourdes and Fatima, places that have drastically reduced attendance in recent months, due to health constraints linked to the Covid-19 epidemic, it is Brazil’s turn to block the flow of pilgrims who have come to honor the patron saint of the country, in the most frequented Marian pilgrimage site in the world.
A desert esplanade, organs resonating in an almost empty nave: the atmosphere is freezing on October 12, 2020, the day Brazil celebrates its patroness, Our Lady of Aparecida.
Unimaginable a few months ago, the most frequented Marian pilgrimage site in the world, which gathers around thirteen million pilgrims a year, seems asleep.
The cause, of course, is the Covid-19 epidemic, which has fundamentally changed habits in Aparecida: “today everything has become a desert,” admits Fr. José Ulises da Silva, Redemptorist and spokesman for the Sanctuary.
“We can no longer allow the arrival of organized pilgrimages. Now, with the reopening after closing, and the necessary respect for the sanitary protocol, we can welcome at most 1,000 pilgrims per day,” adds the religious.
It is therefore in a virtual way, that the two hundred thousand pilgrims, who usually come with fervor to celebrate the patron saint of Brazil, have had to resolve to follow religious services on television, and only a small physical participation in the sanctuary could be authorized.
In speaking to him about the resumption of the great pilgrimages – which until now ensured the economic survival of the region – the rector of the sanctuary remains elusive: it will be necessary “to wait a long time,” estimates the religious who wants to remain positive, adding that “despite the extreme difficulties, prayer has never declined. On the contrary, it has increased. People feel the living presence of Our Lady.”
Our Lady of Aparecida is a miraculous statue of the Virgin Mary, discovered in mid-1717.
Over the years, the fame of the statue spread to all regions of Brazil; also, around 1734, the chaplain of Guaratingueta built a chapel for the Virgin, on the summit of the Morro dos Coqueiros.
Faced with the increase in the number of faithful, a new church was built in 1834: it was elevated to status as a minor basilica by Pope Saint Pius X in 1908.
In 1929, Our Lady of Aparecida was proclaimed “Queen of Brazil” and principal patron of the country, by Pope Pius XI.