EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – One of the holiest religious celebrations on the border will go on despite COVID-19, albeit only online.

The Catholic dioceses of El Paso and Juarez, Mexico say they will conduct the traditional Mass to Our Lady of Guadalupe on Dec. 12 inside empty cathedrals but will broadcast the services on their Facebook pages.

The El Paso Mass will be celebrated at St. Patrick Cathedral in the morning, with a 7 a.m. or 8 a.m. start being evaluated, Catholic Diocese of El Paso spokesman Fernando Ceniceros said. The Mass at Our Lady of Guadalupe Cathedral in Juarez would be celebrated at noon, said Mother Raquel of the Juarez Catholic Diocese.

“The celebration of the Virgin is one of the most important feasts in all of the Americas, next to the mysteries of our Lord, which are Christmas, Lent and Easter,” Mother Raquel said. “The Mass will go on, but we must avoid crowds to prevent (the spread of) COVID-19, so we are encouraging alternatives among our faithful.”

Those include urging Catholics to say the Rosary and set up altars to the Virgin inside their homes. Parishes are also being encouraged to place an image outside so their members can drive up and leave offerings such as flowers and lighted candles by its side, she said.

The Dec. 12 celebration is usually accompanied by colorful pilgrimages, Indigenous dancers and mariachi bands singing “Las Mañanitas” – a traditional Mexican birthday song. None of that will take place this year due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“As of right now, the diocese is in a suspended status, meaning that no more than 10 can gather in parishes and that just to help with any streaming services,” Ceniceros said. “In that regard, we are encouraging people to stream any Our Lady of Guadalupe Services.”

He said the diocese on Tuesday was talking to English and Spanish language stations in El Paso regarding broadcast rights.

Either Mass can be seen in the diocese’s Facebook page on Dec. 12. Likewise for the Mass in Juarez, which will also be broadcast on Radio Guadalupana AM-1240.

According to Mexican Catholic tradition, a dark-skinned Virgin Mary in 1531 appeared to a peasant named Juan Diego near present-day Mexico City and told him to build her a shrine. The event — or the legend — was instrumental in the conversion of Indigenous tribes to Catholicism, according to historians.

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