STA, 15 August 2020 - Special masses were held around the country on Saturday to mark the Feast of the Assumption, one of the main Christian holidays and a national holiday in Slovenia since 1992. Marked by coronavirus measures, the ceremonies drew less people than usually, with the main mass attended by some 3,000 believers, 2,000 less than last year.
There are several hundred churches in Slovenia devoted to the Virgin Mary and several of them, mostly older ones, especially to Mary's "assumption of body and soul into heavenly glory".
Slovenian bishops symbolically entrusted the Slovenian nation into Mary's hands in 1992 and that year 15 August also became a bank holiday, marked by pilgrimages.
The main celebration of the Assumption is traditionally held at the Brezje Basilica of Mary Help of Christians (Marija Pomagaj Brezje), one of Slovenia's holiest and most popular pilgrimage sites, where mass was given by Cardinal Franc Rode along with Ljubljana Archbishop Stanislav Zore.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the naming of Brezje as the Slovenian National Shrine Mary Help of Christians.
Holy masses, mostly delivered by Slovenian bishops, were held today at the majority of the main sites of Marian devotion in the country, including at the Basilica of the Virgin Protectress in the village of Ptujska Gora, another popular pilgrimage site. Maribor Archbishop Alojzij Cvikl gave mass there.
In Kranj, mass was delivered by the titular archbishop of Beneventum and apostolic nuncio to Iraq Mitja Leskovar, while retired Ljubljana Archbishop Anton Stres addressed worshippers at the Church of St Mary at Svete Gore near Bistrica of Sotli.
The ceremonies were adjusted to the epidemiological situation and measures aiming to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, with many of the masses, including at Brezje and Ptujska Gora, held outdoors.
The Slovenian Bishops' Conference has called for the observing of instructions issued by Slovenian bishops and in place since 21 July 2020. Priests and worshippers are urged to respect the 1.5-metre gap, disinfect their hands and use protective masks indoors. Traditional processions and fairs held at some locations have been cancelled.
The elderly, people with health conditions and all belonging to risk groups have been invited to attend holy mass in their home parish or tune in via TV, the Bishops' Conference told the STA.