This Holy Week, home is the holy place
SANTA FE –– The New Mexico Department of Transportation is asking the faithful to stay home during Holy Week.
The annual pilgrimages to El Santuario de Chimayo and Tome Hill have been cancelled due to the imposed health order to prohibit gathering of five or more people.
In addition, the grounds, chapel and restrooms at El Santuario de Chimayo will be closed Holy Thursday through Easter Monday (April 9-13). Pilgrims are discouraged from visiting the sacred site.
The New Mexico Department of Transportation and State Police strongly discourages anyone from making the trek to the church this year. Safety arrangements will not be provided on the pilgrimage route roadways and traffic control will not be provided. Message boards will tell the public to turn back and stay home.
Transportation Secretary Mike Sandoval said he had to make the difficult decision. "I'm from Santa Fe and I have made the Good Friday walk to El Santuario de Chimayo in the past," said Sandoval. "I know this is painful but we don't want anyone getting hurt or killed on the roadways. Please stay home."
State Police and the Santa Fe County Sheriff's office will be present on the routes but will stand in solidarity with the governor's order and clergy recommendation to stay home. They will be asking walkers to go home.
"While the New Mexico State Police respect the religious liberty of all New Mexico residents, we are urging the public to refrain from participating in these pilgrimages out of concern for their safety, as traditional safety measures, like traffic control, will not be in place this year," said New Mexico State Police Chief Tim Johnson. "We ask that you stay home to keep yourself and our officers safe."
Archbishop John Wester also strongly discourages the faithful from making the annual trek.
"In unity with all Christians, we call on the faithful to make home the holy place for the sake of all families during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is imperative we heed the advice of our global scientists, medical and public health experts," Archbishop Wester said. "Stay home. By practicing social distancing, together we can save lives."
Pastor Vince Torres of Blaze Christian Fellowship in Santa Fe said, "Though these guidelines may prevent our physical communion with one another, they cannot prevent our spiritual communion with God. In other words, we can continue to be spiritually faithful Christians while serving as socially responsible citizens."
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham strongly urged all New Mexicans of every denomination to avoid large gatherings during Holy Week, even in places of worship.
"We understand this is a terrible hardship for the faithful, but public health is the first and foremost consideration," the governor said. "And large groups are an enormous public health risk to our communities right now. I am immensely grateful to the Archbishop and to faith leaders from all across the state who have voluntarily canceled Holy Week congregations and encourage everyone to heed the guidance: This week, home is the holy place."