Young Pakistani Catholics walk to the Mariamabad shrine in this file photo. (Photo supplied)
After a year on pause, Lahore Archdiocese has announced the annual pilgrimage to the National Marian Shrine in Mariamabad village will go ahead under strict safety guidelines.
The 72nd pilgrimage will be held from Sept. 10-12 under the title “Holy Mary Mother of Mercy.”
“Observe all SOPs [standard operating procedures] about the Covid pandemic and arrive after compulsory vaccination. All pilgrims are requested to especially pray for the end of the coronavirus,” states a poster released by the archdiocese’s central pilgrimage committee.
Every year more than 1.2 million pilgrims visit Mariamabad in Punjab province from all over Pakistan. However, Punjab’s government ordered Lahore Archdiocese to cancel all pilgrimage plans last year.
In January, Punjab governor Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar ordered expediting the construction of a 4.1-kilometer road from Sheikhupura district to Mariamabad at a cost of 66 million rupees (US$411,000) and announced the installation of a filtration plant at the Church of St. Mary and St. Joseph at the National Marian Shrine.
Father Touseef Yousaf, who is in charge of security for the pilgrimage, said parish priests are being instructed to inform churchgoers about SOPs during the event.
Security volunteers will be provided with sanitizers to facilitate them while entering the church compound
“The faithful are being asked to wear masks during the three-day national pilgrimage. Security volunteers will be provided with sanitizers to facilitate them while entering the church compound. The provincial government has already started the road project. Hopefully it will be completed before the pilgrimage,” Father Yousaf told UCA News.
Father Qaiser Feroz, executive secretary of the Pakistani bishops' social communications commission, said the pilgrimage was planned parallel to the government vaccination drive.
Federal Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Minister Asad Umar this month announced that 10 million Covid-19 vaccine doses have been administered in the country.
According to the National Command and Operation Center, fewer than 50 deaths from the virus have been reported for the past 11 consecutive days.
Pakistan recently recovered from a third wave of the pandemic and eased restrictions nationwide after the Covid-19 positivity rate fell below 3 percent.