BUENOS AIRES – More than a million Catholic faithful participated on the weekend in the traditional pilgrimage to the Basilica of the Virgin of Lujan, the patron saint of Argentina, police said Sunday.
The traditional procession began on Saturday when thousands of people set out from the sanctuary of San Cayetano, located in the capital neighborhood of Liniers accompanied by the image of the Virgin of Lujan and joined by other pilgrims along the way.
Buenos Aires Gov. Daniel Scioli also joined the procession for one stretch of the journey.
After covering on foot the 70 kilometers (about 43 miles) separating the capital from the city of Lujan in Buenos Aires province, the pilgrims on Sunday arrived at the imposing basilica, where Buenos Aires Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio celebrated a Mass.
The top Catholic Church official in Argentina warned that “a people who does not care for its children and elderly has begun to become decadent,” a sentiment echoing the pilgrimage’s motto this year: “Mother Mary, help us care for life.”
The pilgrimage, which has been made every year since 1975 and began as a march of young people to Lujan, has become a demonstration of faith that transcends borders, since many of the Catholic faithful from neighboring countries come here especially to make the journey on foot.
The first procession of young people, organized by a priest, was participated in by 30,000 people and since then the number of participants has increased notably over the years.