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Guatemalan Catholics resume processions suspended due to the pandemic

Amid solemn music, pyrotechnics and crowds, Catholic parishioners in Guatemala resumed Saturday the processions suspended in 2020 because of the covid-19 pandemic, which has left nearly 17,000 dead in the Central American country.

“Having a processional procession go and walk our streets is like a breath of faith, regardless of the pandemic,” Josué Orozco, 44, a devotee of the image of Jesus Nazarene from the church of La Merced, in the center of the capital, the first to go out in procession for two years, told AFP.

Orozco, who protected himself from the sun with a cap and wore a mask, said that the procession “is like a cry of hope that all the people needed”.

The procession was authorized by the Ministry of Health after the establishment of sanitary protocols. The parishioners with a turn to carry on shoulders the platform where the images rest, known as processional platform, must be vaccinated against covid, in addition to wearing a mask and disinfecting with alcohol gel.

The procession could not take place last year when the image of the Patron Saint of Guatemala City, one of the most venerated in the metropolitan area, celebrated three centuries of consecration.

“That Jesus de la Merced goes out [in procession] is going to bless us a lot and I believe that having faith and bravery and courage the Guatemalan population has to move forward,” added the man, who along with other people was making a colorful sawdust carpet through which the parade was going to pass.

Individual responsibility

“We are retaking criteria related to the (Guatemalan) identity and from that also begins to build and weave this popular religiosity,” said Nicté Morales (26), dressed in a black dress, required to carry the processions.

Morales considered that the procession “generates a lot of emotion” to resume the Holy Week celebrations, one of the main religious traditions of Guatemala inherited from Spanish colonialism, which since 2008 are Intangible Cultural Heritage of the country.

In addition to the church of La Merced, other Catholic associations are in talks with the Ministry of Health to define their protocols for organizing processions during Holy Week (April 10-16), which are mainly attended in the center of the capital and the colonial city of Antigua (west).

In view of the crowds for this Saturday’s procession, health authorities said that “the most important thing” after the approval of the event is the “individual responsibility” to avoid contagions.

“We urge the population and the parishioners to maintain the prevention protocols (…). Health is everyone’s responsibility,” the Ministry of Health added in a statement.

With nearly 17 million inhabitants, Guatemala has 776,262 cases of covid-19 and 16,961 deaths as of Saturday, which has generated criticism of the government of President Alejandro Giammattei.

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