Featured Image
 Archidiócesis de Valencia / YouTube

VALENCIA, May 12, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — A Spanish cardinal has found himself under police scrutiny for having given a blessing and briefly exposing an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the front entrance of a basilica on the occasion of the city’s annual feast day.

City authorities claim that Cardinal Antonio Cañizares broke strict coronavirus lockdown regulations when he stood at the entrance to the Basilica de la Virgen de los Desamparado displaying the image and blessing the city of Valencia on the feast of Our Lady of the Forsaken, patroness of the the city, celebrated on the second Sunday of May.  

People practice social distancing as the briefly venerate image of Our Lady of the Forsaken in Valencia.

Under normal circumstances, observance of the feast day brings huge crowds to the city for a range of events. The celebration climaxes when the image of Our Lady is carried in procession from the basilica, around the Plaza de la Virgen to St. Catherine’s Cathedral, surrounded by throngs of people.

Because of the pandemic, all events were canceled, and the traditional Sunday morning Mass dedicated to Our Lady of the Forsaken was said in the basilica with empty pews.

Afterward, a few dozen people wearing masks stood in the nearly empty square to venerate the image and receive the Cardinal’s blessing.

One member of the Valencia City Council accused those who conducted the brief feast day observance of having acted in “premeditation and malice” since a television crew was on hand to film the event.

As a result, police have closed the basilica.

The archdiocese disputes the charge by civil authorities that social distancing directives were ignored.

A short video of Sunday’s sparse gathering shared via Twitter seems to support assertions by the archdiocese that no social distancing rules were broken. 

This becomes even more apparent when compared with a photo showing the normal crowd gathered for the feast day procession. 

Valencia’s pre-pandemic annual procession of Our Lady of the Forsaken
Photo:  Valencia official website

“The Feast of Our Lady of the Forsaken has been celebrated with a single Mass at 10:30 am in the Royal Basilica, behind closed doors without the presence of the faithful,” said a statement released by the Archdiocese of Valencia on Sunday, according to a report by Crux.

Cañizares said in his homily: “We are in a very difficult situation of pandemic with dead and sick people; we have a great economic crisis, with companies and jobs being destroyed … we have multiple poverties.”

“Jesus asks us to remain in love, that we do not depart from love, that we love each other with the same love with which he and the Virgin love all the helpless, the multitude who suffer,” continued the Cardinal, according to Crux

“The Valencian people [are] energized by the Virgin of love, mercy and forgiveness. The faith in her by the Valencian people does not die. Hope is the answer to helplessness, remaining attentive to the pain of the sick, of the elderly, of those who are lonely, of those who are threatened in their lives,” added Cañizares.

Responding to civil authorities who accused the Church of not having respected the pandemic social distancing rules, Cardinal Cañizares said, “This archdiocese has applied [them] more strictly than anyone.”