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Throngs trek to adobe church in New Mexico on Good Friday

March 30, 2018

Jasmin Perez, 17, of Espanola, New Mexico, carries a cross on a pilgrimage to a small adobe church in Chimayo, New Mexico, on Friday, March 30, 2018. She joined thousands of Catholics traveled by foot to El Santuario de Chimayo in the hills of northern New Mexico in an annual Good Friday pilgrimage that has endured for two centuries. The Easter-week tradition attracts more than 20,000 people. Many set out before dawn and walk more than 30 miles (48 kilometers) along highways from Santa Fe. (AP Photo/Morgan Lee)

CHIMAYO, N.M. (AP) — A centuries-old pilgrimage to a tiny adobe church in northern New Mexico attracted thousands of visitors Friday, some walking through the night along desert highways on their journey.

The Easter-week tradition dates back more than two centuries. Many participants trek more than 30 miles (48 kilometers) from Santa Fe or beyond.

At the shrine, the faithful filed through an adjacent room that holds a small pit of dirt that some say has curative powers. Visitors knelt to scoop dirt into plastic bags, ambling by the hundreds through a passageway lined with cast-off crutches that bear testimony to healing.

Elementary school teacher Anne Probst walked the final eight miles (12 kilometers) of the journey to Chimayo, bearing a hand-carved statue of the crucifixion on her back that her ailing father made.

Her family has been making the trip to Chimayo from Santa Fe for decades. This year her thoughts dwelled on her father and a young student with severe health problems — as well as the victims of a February mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

“There are healing powers here, and there is meditation and prayer on the walk,” to get here, Probst said. “I thought a lot about our country. There’s a lot of healing that needs to be done.”

The road to Chimayo was lined with vendors of coffee, walking sticks, religious memorabilia and snacks including snow cones and corn on the cob. Gridlocked stretches of highway were patrolled by sheriff’s deputies on horseback. The faithful carried crosses, large and small. Some pushed children in strollers, or strummed guitars to pass the time.

Outside the shrine, participants lined up by the hundreds under clear skies for a chance to wade slowly into the tiny church at Chimayo that is listed as a National Historic Landmark.

Roman Catholicism in northern New Mexico dates back more than 400 years to the arrival of the Spanish in 1598.

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