Legazpi Bishop Joel Baylon has ordered the temporary closure of two pilgrimage sites in the Albay province. The move comes in light of ongoing efforts to curb the rising number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country.
In a circular dated March 19, Bishop Baylon announced that the Shrine of the Divine Mercy and the Stations of the Cross at Kawa-Kawa Hill in Ligao City, Albay will be closed from the public. This means that the faithful will not be allowed to visit the pilgrimage sites on Holy Week, from March 28 to April 4.
“I am declaring this temporary closure of these pilgrimage sites in order to prevent the possible spread of the virus,” Bishop Baylon wrote. (Read: Wow, Catholics Can Now Go on Virtual Pilgrimage to the Holy Land!)
“This means that not even the private praying of the Station of the Cross nor a simple visit to the Shrine shall be allowed. Kindly know that we are after the safety of everyone,” he added.
Pray the Rosary, Attend Mass
According to Bishop Baylon, the faithful can still commemorate the Holy Week from the confines of their homes. (Read: 4 Ways to Observe Holy Week While on Lockdown)
He urged everyone to prioritize the public’s health and safety by instead praying the Station of the Cross privately, and joining the online Via Crucis offered by some parishes and communities.
“We can still observe the Lenten discipline of prayer by participating in the actual Masses in our parishes, faithful recitation of the Holy Rosary, and offering personal prayers,” Baylon said.
“In this way, we continue to make our Lenten journey solemn and meaningful,” he added.
Shrine of the Divine Mercy, Albay
The Shrine of the Divine Mercy in Ligao, Albay is popular among pilgrims for its life-size sculptures of the 14 Stations of the Cross. Every year during Lent and Holy Week, thousands of faithful would flock to the shrine to pray and commemorate the season.
In 2020 and 2021, however, the shrine was closed down to give way to health protocols against the COVID-19 pandemic. (Read: Vatican Releases Guidelines for Holy Week 2021)