In Germany, Pilgrimages Also Bear the Brunt of COVID-19

February 16, 2021
Marienschrein in Aachen

Two of the most prestigious pilgrimages, dating back to the Holy Roman Empire, have had to be postponed due to the new wave of the COVID-19 epidemic which has hit Germany for several weeks.

SARS-CoV 2 finally got the better of the traditional pilgrimage to Aachen. Every seven years, since 1349, pilgrims have come from Germany and around the world to venerate the relics resting in the Marienschrein, or Shrine of the Blessed Virgin.

Four emblematic relics are exhibited there: the robe in which the Virgin Mary was dressed during the Nativity of the Incarnate Word, the swaddling clothes of the Infant-God, the cloth in which the head of St. John the Baptist was wrapped after his beheading, and, finally, the loincloth that Christ wore during the Crucifixion.

For several weeks, it had become increasingly clear that the pilgrimage could not take place in its usual format: if 120,000 pilgrims had made the trip to Aix in 2014, this year it would be necessary to be satisfied with “a strict and very limited framework,” not to mention “a lot of ideas that should have been rejected,” explains Fr. Rolf-Peter Cremer, provost of the cathedral, on February 4, 2021.

For this reason, the ordinary of the place, Msgr. Helmut Dieser, in agreement with the cathedral chapter, decided to postpone the pilgrimage to June 2023: on that date—everyone would like to believe—the specter of the coronavirus and its many mutants will have gone away.

Another pilgrimage is also paying the price for the coronavirus: one that brings together many faithful each year to Kornelimünster Abbey, also called Sancti Cornelii ad Indam.

Founded by St. Benedict of Aniana, under the patronage of Emperor Louis the Pious in 814, the Benedictine abbey has three emblematic relics in its treasure: the linteum domini, a cloth with which the Lord washed the feet of his disciples during the Last Supper; the Sindon munda, shroud of Christ, and the Sudarium Domini, linen which wiped the sweat of Christ and which was discovered in his empty tomb by St. John and St. Peter.

The abbey still houses the relics of St. Cornelius and St. Cyprian. Named Monasterium Sancti Corneli ad Indam, the sanctuary quickly became one of the starting points for pilgrimages to Rome, the Holy Land, or Compostela.

The diocese of Münster has indicated that the pilgrims of St. Cornelius should also wait until 2023 to venerate the precious relics.