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Annual National Marian Pilgrimage in Senegal Canceled, Pilgrims to Pray in Parishes

Our Lady of Deliverance Basilica in Poponguine. Credit: Courtesy Photo

The annual national Marian pilgrimage in the West African nation of Senegal that had been scheduled to take place this month has been canceled amid COVID-19 restrictions, the Catholic Bishops in the country have announced.

In their May 1 collective statement, the Bishops call on pilgrims to Poponguine, a small village on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean in Senegal, to pray for Mary’s intercession in their respective Parishes.

“This great gathering of faith scheduled for May 24 cannot hold as usual,” members of the Episcopal Conference of Senegal, Mauritania, Cape Verde and Guinea Bissau say, citing COVID-19 restrictions.

“It is true that the current evolution of the pandemic gives us great hope,” the Bishops say, and continue, “Let us always remain cautious, so that our common struggle to overcome this evil becomes more effective. We must learn from the negative consequences of the second wave of the pandemic, which was on the decline.”

Instead of the major assembly of pilgrims in Poponguine, the Bishops recommend that “the celebration of the 133rd edition of the Pilgrimage be lived at the level of the Parish communities of our Dioceses, with the celebration of Marian Masses, preceded by the recitation of the Rosary, on Monday, May 24, at 10 a.m., in strict respect of preventive measures.”

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Senegal has recorded 40,492 cases of the coronavirus including 39,214 recoveries and 1,111 related deaths.

Last year, at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Catholic Church leaders also cancelled the annual national pilgrimage to Poponguine.

In their May 1 statement signed by Archbishop Benjamin Ndiaye of Senegal’s Dakar Archdiocese, the Catholic Prelates invite “Priests to exploit the chosen theme: With Mary and Joseph, let us walk the path of holiness and brotherhood.”

“We, your Bishops, implore the intercession of the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph for an end to this pandemic, for a return to normal life, reconciled with God, with our neighbor,” the Bishops say in their May 1 collective statement obtained by ACI Africa.

The annual pilgrimage to Poponguine is the largest Christian gathering in Senegal.

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Every year, on the Solemnity of Pentecost, the pilgrimage that was launched in 1888 as an initiative of a French missionary brings together thousands of faithful from the West African country and others from neighboring nations.