The COVID-19 virus has forced the postponement of one of Northern New Mexico's most beloved traditions, the annual Holy Week pilgrimage to El Santuario de Chimayó.
The Archdiocese of Santa Fe made the announcement Monday, posting a notice on its website that it is discouraging pilgrims from visiting the Santuario "because of the increased risk of contracting COVID-19 and passing it on to another who may be gravely harmed."
"For those who insist upon visiting the Santuario at this time and are not willing to or able to postpone their pilgrimage to a later date when the danger has passed, we ask that social distancing and proper safety protocols be strictly self-enforced to protect fellow pilgrims and their families," the notice continued.
The archdiocese, which said the walk would be postponed until the state's coronavirus directives are lifted, also postponed the Tomé Hill pilgrimage in Valencia County.
Every spring, pilgrims from the state and around the world make the trip to the 19th-century Roman Catholic shrine in Chimayó to reflect on personal blessings, seek forgiveness for sins, celebrated the lives of loved ones and remember the sacrifices Jesus made.
The tradition culminates on Good Friday, when tens of thousands of people visit the shrine, a National Historic Landmark. Many come to collect holy soil, believed to have healing powers, at the site.
Many walkers begin their sojourn in Albuquerque, more than 90 miles away, though many start in Santa Fe or Española, some 11 miles from the Santuario.
New Mexico health officials have been urging citizens to stay at home as much as possible, avoid social interaction with large groups and not to take part in any activity involving 50 people or more.
Last week, the archdiocese and other churches in Santa Fe announced they would not hold weekend services in an effort to stem the spread of the virus.
Monday's announcement said the archdiocese is trying to abide by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's March 11 declaration of a public health emergency in the state as a result of the spread of COVID-19.
"New Mexico health officials strongly advise residents to stay home to the greatest extent possible, to limit person-to-person contact and to undertake only those outings that are essential to health, safety and general welfare," the news release from the archdiocese said.
It also said because of the coronavirus, a potential shortage of state employees would not be able to assure the safety of pilgrims traveling on busy highways and byways to get to the Santuario.
"Please know that this very difficult decision was made with a great sense of sadness," the news release stated.
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