Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Costa Rica cancels annual pilgrimage to Cartago

(AFP) - Ongoing concerns about the AH1N1 virus forced the cancellation of a 227-year-old traditional pilgrimage in Costa Rica, where 16 people have died from the flu and authorities have confirmed 560 cases of infections.

The Ministry of Health and the Catholic Church in the country agreed to suspend the annual pilgrimage ("Romeria") for devotees of the Virgin of Los Angeles.

Each year, some two million people walk to the Basilica de Los Angeles, in Cartago, the country's first capital, to pay religious tribute, but authorities fear up to 20,000 people could contract swine flu if the pilgrimage goes ahead.

The unprecedented cancellation prompted a statement from Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, who called for understanding and said it had been a "very difficult and painful decision."

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