Mexico to shut basilica that draws millions

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Mexico City: A Catholic shrine in Mexico that usually attracts millions of pilgrims will be closed during next month’s homage to the Virgin of Guadalupe due to the coronavirus pandemic, authorities said Monday. Huge crowds of worshippers usually descend on the basilica in the north of Mexico City to see one of Latin America’s most revered religious icons.

According to Catholic tradition, the dark-skinned virgin appeared to an indigenous peasant on December 12, 1531, heralding the Church’s arrival in the New World. Roman Catholic pilgrims from around Latin American usually line up for a glimpse of her image, which they believe was miraculously imprinted on a piece of fabric.

But this year the shrine will be shut from December 10-13 to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Mexico City authorities and the Church said in a statement. They urged worshippers to celebrate in their homes or local churches while observing social distancing.

Mexico has officially registered more than 100,000 Covid-19 deaths – the world’s fourth-highest toll – and over a million infections.