Denver Newsroom, May 7, 2020 / 14:48 pm
For the first time in over a century, the annual May 13 celebrations at the Fatima shrine will take place without the physical presence of pilgrims, the bishop of Fatima confirmed this week.
Cardinal Antonio Marto said in a May 3 statement that the celebrations for the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima “will take place as was announced April 6, without the physical presence of pilgrims, in the name of prudence to avoid the risk of spreading the novel coronavirus.”
“As planned in conjunction with the civil authorities, the May 12 and 13 celebrations for this year cannot have the physical presence of the pilgrims and will be transmitted by broadcast and digital media,” he continued.
The cardinal explained that hosting “an unpredictable multitude of people” gathering at a time when the coronavirus pandemic is still a serious threat would go against the efforts of health authorities to gradually lift restrictions imposed to slow the spread of the virus.
“We therefore respect, in an attitude of collaboration with the competent civil authorities, the guidelines for these celebrations to be held with a symbolic presence of participants,” Marto said.
The clarification over the Fatima feast day came as the Portuguese government gradually begins to ease restrictions that had been put in place in response to the pandemic, prompting speculation over whether the May 13 celebrations would be able to take place as normal. The annual event typically draws hundreds of thousands from around the world to the shrine.
The Portuguese Bishops’ Conference had announced earlier this month that public Masses could tentatively resume the weekend of Pentecost, May 30-31, in accordance with guidelines to be established by the country’s health department and the Catholic Church.
Cardinal Marto stressed that the decision to suspend public religious celebrations was based in a sense of responsibility toward the public health, as a way of loving one’s neighbor.