Des Plaines Our Lady of Guadalupe image removed from shrine over crowd concerns amid COVID-19 pandemic

DES PLAINES, Ill. (WLS) -- A large image of "Our Lady at the Shrine of Guadalupe" in north suburban Des Plaines has temporarily been relocated over concerns it could draw crowds in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

A ceremony was held at the Des Plaines shrine Friday morning. The image usually brings hundreds of thousands of faithful to the suburb in December.

The image is normally encased in glass, but now a bouquet of red roses is there. In a moving ceremony Friday, the image was moved slowly and gently into the nearby chapel.

Church leaders, along with devoted parishioners, walked the image of Our Lady into the chapel.

Last week Cardinal Blase Cupich and other church leaders asked pilgrims to celebrate the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe Saturday in the safety of their own homes.

The annual pilgrimage usually brings hundreds of thousands of people to the Des Plaines shrine every year, but, because of the pandemic, church leaders decided to remove the image temporarily. to prevent large crowds from gathering.

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It was not an easy decision.

"We're literally touching what the community holds most dear, and that's a very sacred thing, so for us it's very sad that they can't come because it really means so much," Father Esequiel Sanchez said.

Parishioner Donaciano Espinoza called 2020 "very odd" and expressed his sadness in seeing the image come down.

"It's very hard because it's very touching," Espinoza said. "It really hurts."

The image of Our Lady will be returned at 7:30 a.m. Sunday during another prayer service.
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