The Episcopal Conference, which groups the Catholic Church’s leaders in Costa Rica, is asking faithful to conduct a virtual romería this year in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
The traditional pilgrimage of Catholics to the Costa Rican city of Cartago has been officially canceled due to COVID-19.
But Ticos can join a virtual celebration by visiting romeriavirtual2020.com and adding their name and offerings to the online platform. More than 25,000 people have already done so, according to the website.
“We urge you not to make a pilgrimage this year,” the Episcopal Conference said in a statement. “Live the pilgrimage from your home or through the Virtual Pilgrimage. You can make a promise, make a pilgrimage and give thanks with a simple process.”
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.
It’s typically Costa Rica’s largest mass-gathering event, but this year the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles remains closed to the public.
“It is a different year, and we ask pilgrims to refrain from doing this activity,” Health Minister Daniel Salas said earlier this week. “We cannot trigger contagions at a time when the health system is already on edge.”
The Public Security Ministry (MSP) says it’s monitoring the roads into Cartago to help discourage agglomerations.
“At the moment, surveillance is maintained on the route, and it will be assessed if more police resources are required,” MSP said in a statement. “Of course, the call is reiterated not to do the journey in person and join the options offered by the Catholic Church.”
The traditional romería was last canceled in 2009 due to the A(H1N1) flu virus.
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.