The grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes in Yangon Archdiocese. (Photo: Our Lady of Lourdes, Nyaunglebin Parish)
Church officials in Myanmar have decided that a popular annual Marian celebration will be livestreamed online this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Under the guidance of Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon, preparations have been made for the 119th anniversary of Our Lady of Lourdes in Nyaunglebin in the Bago region from Feb.5 -14.
Last year the Marian celebration was canceled due to fears over the pandemic.
Bishop John Saw Yaw Han, general secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar, has urged Catholics to give contributions and suggestions and pray for the success of the event this year.
The feast, which attracts thousands of Catholics, Hindus and Buddhists from across Myanmar, has been held annually since 1902 and the Church has designated the site a national pilgrimage center.
A Paris Foreign Missions Society priest built a wooden church and dedicated it to Our Lady of Lourdes. A new church was built in 1902, but it was shelled and partly destroyed during the Japanese occupation in World War II and celebrations were suspended. They resumed in 1948, and in 1957 the Church in Myanmar made Feb. 11 a national feast day.
Last February, Cardinal Bo appealed to bishops in Asia to entrust all victims of the coronavirus and people across the globe to Our Lady of Lourdes.
In a New Year message, the cardinal said 2020 was not a story of human submission but one of human resilience.
As the doors of 2020 were closing, scientists had won a strategic battle against the pandemic and vaccines had been developed with astonishing speed, he said.
“Hope is on the horizon. The coronavirus pandemic will end,” Cardinal Bo said.
Myanmar’s churches are livestreaming daily Masses, Bible reflections and adoration programmes but public Masses are allowed on Sundays with no more than 30 people.
The country has been grappling with a second wave of the contagion as cases have surged in Yangon, Mandalay and Rakhine state since last August.
Myanmar reported 448 new coronavirus cases on Jan. 20, taking its total to 135,243 with 2,986 deaths and 118,657 recoveries. It has the third-highest number of cases in Asean behind Indonesia and the Philippines.
According to the latest data, 2,056,300 people have died out of more than 96 million confirmed cases worldwide.