Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Wednesday 28 July |
Saint of the Day: Bl. Stanley Rother
home iconNews
line break icon

Catholic pilgrimage sites have been hit hard by pandemic restrictions


Pramio Garson | Shutterstock

John Burger - published on 09/10/20 - updated on 09/11/20

2020 has been an impossible year for "religious tourism."

Two years ago, Aleteia presented “Classic Catholic Pilgrimages for Your Bucket List.”

Now, for most people, checking off items on one’s list of places to go has been put on hold, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And many of those pilgrimage sites are in need of the very thing people go there for — prayer.

The year 2020 has been an impossible year for “religious tourism,” says an article at The Conversation website. There’s been nowhere near the roughly 300 million to 330 million pilgrims who visit the world’s key religious sites every year, the Conversation said. And local economies are suffering due to the downturn. Worldwide, pilgrims generate about $18 billion in revenues.

In Jerusalem, for example, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the world’s primary pilgrimage site, where Jesus Christ was crucified and rose from the dead, had to be completely closed for two months due to the pandemic. When it reopened in May, authorities limited entrance to 50 persons at a time.

Franciscan Fr. Francesco Patton, custos of the Holy Land, told the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, “In Jerusalem, we haven’t seen a pilgrim in six months.”

Speaking this week, he appealed to Catholics around the world to be as generous as they can to the special collection for the Holy Land, which will be taken up on Sunday, September 13. It was moved from Good Friday this year because of pandemic closures and shutdowns.

In Portugal, the shrine at Fatima was also closed, interrupting the annual May 13 feast day, the anniversary of the first apparition of the Virgin Mary to three children in 1917.

“We’ve come to a complete standstill,” Daniela Tome, head of Magnificat Tours, which specializes in visits to Fatima, told the German news agency Deutsche Welle. She was forced to cut working hours for her staff and cancel contracts with freelance guides.

Tome told DW that the income she expected from the May 13 festival “all but collapsed.”

With the release of the movie “Fatima,” though, and depending on how the pandemic plays out, pilgrimages to the Portuguese shrine might rebound next year.

Similarly, Lourdes in France normally welcomes up to 5 million visitors a year. With the shutdown in France, pilgrims could at least go online and view the sanctuary, but Lourdes’ closure left it with a deficit of $9.06 million, the Conversation said.

In light of all this, some people have gotten creative. Modern Catholic Pilgrim (MCP) recently announced a project meant to encourage devotion to Catholic saints during this time of social distancing. Walking with the Saints 2020 is meant to get those who “long to go on pilgrimage” out of the house on isolated “walked pilgrimages” dedicated to their favorite saints. The month-long event will culminate in a celebration of All Saints Day on November 1.


Read more:
Walking with the Saints 2020 offers self-guided US pilgrimages

Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
Philip Kosloski
This morning prayer is easy to memorize
J-P Mauro
Reconstructing a 12th-century pipe organ discovered in the Holy L...
Joachim and Anne
Philip Kosloski
Did Jesus know his grandparents?
Daniel Esparza
5 Curious things you might not know about Catholicism
Zelda Caldwell
World-record winning gymnast Simone Biles leans on her Catholic f...
Philip Kosloski
This prayer to St. Anthony is said to have “never been know...
Cerith Gardiner
5 Ways grandparents impact our lives for the better
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.