AGLONA - More than 100,000 people from all over the world participated in Virgin Mary Assumption celebrations in Aglona this year, reports LETA. The largest number of participants was recorded on Aug. 14, when about 70,000 people participated in a Via Dolorosa procession, said the Aglona Basilica’s information center head Ruta Giluce. 20,000 to 30,000 attended the Mass in Aglona Basilica on Aug. 15.
Giluce also said that people from many countries had visited Aglona this year, including from Russia, Italy, France, Germany, Belgium, Ukraine, Estonia and Lithuania. A total of about 2,500 pilgrims arrived in Aglona on foot, although this figure does not include individual groups that did not register with the information center, said Giluce.
However, Aglona Region Tourism Information Center told LETA that the number of participants in the celebrations had decreased significantly from last year, when approximately 200,000 people visited Aglona.
According to Giluce, the main reason for this is that Aug. 15 is still not an official holiday for Latvia’s Catholics. She also said that changeable weather, with thunderstorms and showers, was a factor.
In his sermon during the Virgin Mary Assumption celebration at the Aglona Basilica on Aug. 15, Riga Archbishop Zbignevs Stankevics emphasized the negative effect dependencies have on people’s lives.
Stankevics spoke about things that take people’s freedom away and push them further away from heaven: smoking, drugs, gambling, alcohol, lust for power, and impurity. “Dependency destroys freedom and degrades a person; it wrecks families and the nation. The cause is inner emptiness that craves to be filled somehow. Dependency is a failed quest for happiness,” said Stankevics. At the same time, there are places to look for happiness, he said, mentioning the example of Virgin Mary, who entrusted her life to God and did not fear that this could limit her freedom in any way.
Stankevics also commented on the current situation in Latvia, saying that, contrary to the critical remarks about too much negativism in Latvia, the recent Song and Dance Festival proved that this can be changed. He mentioned the great enthusiasm, the feeling of fellowship and tears of joy he had seen during the festival. “The major interest that the people have also for other festivals and the atmosphere during them only shows that we all are thirsty for involvement, friendship and positive notions. May we develop and support this,” said Stankevics.
The archbishop also urged artists and the intelligentsia to seek and depict a reflection of heaven in their efforts, and called on people to be involved in charitable activity and selfless social work. There are many opportunities in Latvia to help other people, including those who are not doing very well, as well as educational establishments, donate for construction of sacred buildings, sponsor art, sports and science, he said.
Once the people in Latvia find the spirit of solidarity, selflessness and friendship, will personal relations improve and they will be truly content already on Earth, Stankevics said in his concluding remarks.