An image of the Virgin Mary was removed from the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines after the Shrine canceled its festivities and pilgrimages in the face of rising COVID-19 cases across the state and country.
Photos showed people removing the image from its frame Friday morning as dozens of flowers appeared on the ground nearby.
The Archdiocese of Chicago said the removal is temporary and the image is set to return to the Shrine on Sunday. It will be stored in the Marian Chapel of the Shrine.
"Only the Shrine clergy, staff, and some volunteers, led by Most Rev. Esequiel Sanchez, will be present for the solemn removal of the image followed by a short procession to the Marian Chapel to follow immediately," the Archdiocese said. "A bouquet of roses will be placed where the image currently rests."
Last week, Cardinal Blase Cupich, Fr. Esequiel Sanchez and Mexico City’s Cardinal Carlos Aguiar Retes "asked pilgrims, because of the ongoing pandemic, to celebrate this feast day in the safety of their own homes," the Archdiocese said.
The Shrine announced on Facebook this week that it would be closed Friday and Saturday and no access would be allowed on the property, "including to the plaza of the Virgin."
The Shrine, which typically sees thousands of visitors during its December pilgrimage, is set to hold services virtually in lieu of in-person services both days, according to the Archdiocese of Chicago.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused much hardship and pain for so many,” Rev. Esequiel Sanchez said in a statement.
“The message of comfort offered by Our Lady of Guadalupe to St. Juan Diego: ‘Am I not here, I, who am your mother?’ extends particularly to us today,” Sanchez said. “While we cannot observe this feast as we have in the past, it is still a time of prayer, petition and hope.”