Nicaraguan bishops cancel annual pilgrimage, but mayor reportedly goes ahead

CNA Staff, Mar 31, 2020 / 06:01 pm (CNA).- Local media in Nicaragua are reporting that despite the nation’s bishops’ conference suspending Mass and prohibiting large gatherings, the mayor of Granada is going ahead with an annual pilgrimage that the bishops had canceled.

For more than 150 years, Catholics in Nicaragua have venerated an image of Jesus del Rescate (Jesus of the Rescue) in Popoyuapa, near the city of Rivas. The image represents the crowning of thorns and the flogging of Christ.

Normally there is an annual pilgrimage to the image, which pilgrims make by wagon and on foot, during the “Week of Sorrows” that marks “the final stretch” of the time of Lent, according to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language news partner.

However, the bishops have said that this year it will not be possible to carry it out in the traditional way, given the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Nevertheless, Julia Mena, mayor of Granada, has organized and funded a group of pilgrims to do the pilgrimage, providing them with food and personal hygiene supplies, according to the Nicaraguan news website Confidencial. The priest at the shrine told Confidencial that he has “no plans to receive the pilgrimage.”

The Nicaraguan Episcopal Conference has not commented publicly on the matter.

Nicaragua has five confirmed cases of COVID-19. The government has not yet decreed any kind of alert or emergency regarding the pandemic, nor has it ordered a suspension of classes, Confidencial reports.

The country’s Ministry of Health has maintained that the internal movements of travelers arriving from countries with outbreaks of coronavirus would not be restricted, La Prensa reports.

President Daniel Ortega has been president of Nicaragua since 2007, and oversaw the abolition of presidential term limits in 2014.

The Church had suggested that elections, which are not scheduled until 2021, be held this year, but Ortega has ruled this out.

Ortega was a leader in the Sandinista National Liberation Front, which had ousted the Somoza dictatorship in 1979 and fought US-backed right-wing counterrevolutionaries during the 1980s. Ortega was also leader of Nicaragua from 1979 to 1990.

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