MANILA – Like last year, devotees of the Our Lady of Lourdes grotto-shrine in San Jose del Monte City, Bulacan will be missing this Holy Week the traditional celebration of Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, and other Lenten activities at the 56-year-old pilgrimage site due to the persistent threat of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.
The Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto (SOLLG) said on its website that the church will be closed to pilgrims, devotees, and other visitors until April 11.
This means that the traditional Palm Sunday rites will not be held on March 28 as well as the washing of the feet on Maundy Thursday, the procession on Good Friday, and the “Salubong” procession on Easter Sunday on April 4.
The SOLLG, however, assured that virtual or online Masses will continue to be held by priests with Rev. Fr. Cirilo Palaca as the main celebrant.
Last Sunday, President Rodrigo Duterte approved the recommendation of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to place the National Capital Region (NCR) and four adjoining provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal under stricter general community quarantine until April 4 due to the Covid-19 cases surge.
The IATF-EID said religious gatherings, as well as non-essential travels, are prohibited in these areas.
During the 2020 Holy Week, the Bulacan shrine also canceled the Lenten season activities due to the strictest enhanced community quarantine declared over the entire Luzon and other parts of the country to contain the spread of Covid-19.
The annual penitential walk being done by thousands of devotees on the night of Maundy Thursday was also scratched.
This penitential activity used to be undertaken by thousands of pilgrims from various places of Metro Manila, particularly Quezon City, and Caloocan City, including Novaliches, Valenzuela City, Meycauayan City, Malabon City, and Navotas City.
Since 1966, the devotees used to traverse by foot every year from MacArthur Highway in Barangay Malinta in Valenzuela City or Balintawak, Quezon City, passing through either the old Novaliches-Polo Road, Commonwealth Avenue, or Quirino Highway in Novaliches to the grotto-shrine in San Jose del Monte City.
Situated about 30 kilometers northeast of Manila and just beyond the boundary of Bulacan and Novaliches, a former town divided between Quezon City and Caloocan City, the grotto was opened for public veneration on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes on Feb. 11, 1965.
Since then, thousands of pilgrims used to flock to the shrine to pray and offer flowers and candles to the Our Lady of Lourdes, giving thanks for prayers answered and favors received and meditating in front of the Stations of the Cross on the shrine’s Rosary Hill.
The number of visitors usually peaked during the Holy Week, particularly on Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday. (PNA)