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STOCKBRIDGE — As concerns mount over large-scale public assemblages during the coronavirus outbreak, a decision is expected this week on whether Mercy Sunday will be canceled.

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The mid-April international gathering of pilgrims at the National Shrine of Divine Mercy is one of Berkshire County's most-attended annual events. Typically, organizers have estimated that 15,000 to 20,000 pilgrims congregate on Eden Hill over April 18 and 19, arriving by tour bus, car and even on foot, braving often-adverse weather to attend the outdoor Mass, visit the shrine chapel and walk among the lifelike bronze statues depicting the Stations of the Cross.

An emergency management team — including the Tri-Town Health Department covering Stockbridge, Lee and Lenox, the Stockbridge Board of Health, local police, fire and ambulance officials and leaders of the Marian Fathers — has met to discuss the gathering, said Dr. Charles Kenny, head of the three-member Stockbridge board.

No decision was reached, Kenny told The Eagle via email, but "it is obvious that full cooperation and the public interest was the first concern of all."

Another meeting will be held this week, which is expected to result in a decision, Kenny added. He explained that the Stockbridge Board of Health will implement strategy determined by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

"The DPH is currently discussing mass gatherings with the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC)," Kenny said. He noted that Boston's St. Patrick's Day Parade and the Boston Marathon also are under consideration.

Headquartered in Stockbridge, the Congregation of Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary is a Catholic male clerical religious congregation founded in 1670 in Poland. It is also known as Marians of the Immaculate Conception.

According to sources at the congregation, no decision has been made yet on next month's gathering. Details of the event remained posted Sunday on the congregation's website, shrineofdivinemercy.org.

Divine Mercy Sunday is an international Catholic feast a week after Easter Sunday. promoting Jesus' message that he's merciful to everyone and that people should trust in his mercy and lead a compassionate life.

Clarence Fanto can be reached at cfanto@yahoo.com, on Twitter @BE_cfanto or at 413-637-2551.


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