The traditional romería, an annual pilgrimage of Catholics to the Costa Rican city of Cartago, has been canceled this year due to the coronavirus.
Mario Enrique Quirós Quirós, the Diocesan Bishop of Cartago, said that the decision is in accordance with Health Ministry guidelines that have suspended mass gathering events for the foreseeable future.
“For 2020, it will not be possible to realize our traditional romería,” Quiros said. “It could put the health of Costa Ricans at risk.
“This decision does not mean that our faith will be weakened.”
Virgen de los Ángeles Day, celebrated August 2, honors Costa Rica’s patron saint. Costa Rican Catholics — and faithful from across the world — complete a romería to Cartago to give thanks to and ask for blessings from La Negrita.
An estimated 2 million people made the pilgrimage to Basílica de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles in 2019. In the past, pilgrims have arrived from as far as Panama or Guanacaste, via horseback, bikes, or even while crawling.
“This is Costa Rica’s largest mass gathering event,” Quirós said.
The traditional romería was last canceled in 2009 due to the A(H1N1) flu virus.
Quirós said the Episcopal Conference of Costa Rica will soon announce plans for socially distant celebrations on Virgen de los Ángeles Day.
Options could include a “virtual romería,” Quirós said, or televised masses.
La Negrita, a dark statue of mother and child representing the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus, has also been flown throughout the national territory to inspire and bring hope to the Costa Rican people as the country faces the pandemic.