San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

President Solís to sit out annual Costa Rican religious pilgrimage to Cartago

President Luis Guillermo Solís said that he would not participate in the annual pilgrimage to Cartago’s Basilica of the Angels, known as the romería, this weekend.

Solís said that despite his Catholic faith and his family’s veneration of the Virgen de los Ángeles, Costa Rica’s patron saint, the trek to see “la negrita” is one tradition that he does not share.

“I did not do the romería as a citizen before and I’m not going to go as president,” Solís said.

The president said that he was not the first head of state to abstain from the pilgrimage and took issue with the notion that he was somehow breaking with tradition. Solís added that he said since he was a candidate that he did not want religious events that he attends to be politicized for “populist” reasons.

“The subject of my faith as a believer is mine, with my Lord,” Solís said.

The president said that he would attend the mass at the basilica on Saturday.

Solís acknowledged that Costa Rica was a confessional state in comments made Tuesday, but his administration has shaken up some parts of the country’s church and state tradition. During his inauguration Solís did not have a prayer. Soon after taking office, the Citizen Action Party (PAC) president raised a gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rainbow flag at the Casa Presidencial in Zapote, rankling conservative Christian lawmakers.

The president’s party is at odds with the country’s conservative Catholic leaders, who oppose in vitro fertilization, expanding LGBT rights and the party’s support for a constitutional amendment to end Costa Rica’s status as a confessional state. Solís said that while PAC supports a constitutional amendment to make Costa Rica a secular state, lines of communication remained strong between the Church and Casa Presidencial. The president has attended several meetings with bishops, including one after a mass at the Basilica de los Ángeles with Bishop José Francisco Ulloa in May.

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