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As a new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) swept through the world in 2020, preparedness plans, masking policies and more public policy changed just as quickly. WVXU has covered the pandemic's impact on the Tri-State from the very beginning, when on March 3, 2020, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine barred spectators from attending the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus over concerns about the virus, even though Ohio had yet to confirm a single case of COVID-19.

Praying The Steps Canceled For The First Time Due To COVID-19 Concerns

praying of the steps
Tana Weingartner

A Cincinnati tradition more than 160 years old will not continue this year. The steps Catholics and members of other faiths use to pray on the way to Good Friday services at Holy Cross-Immaculata will be closed.

Father Len Fecko says the city owns the steps and told him they will be closed. He says the mayor's office has told him a police officer will be posted at the bottom of the stairs on Good Friday to direct people away from the steps. He says there was discussion about allowing a few people to make the climb, provided they observed social distancing, but that is not happening.

Good Friday services were taped yesterday and will be posted online. "We decided to record it early because we were afraid if we live-streamed it on Good Friday, and people happened to walk by they might decide to take part in it," Fecko says.

The coffee and doughnuts the church offers in the morning, as well as the fish fry, are also canceled.

"It breaks our hearts," Fecko says. "Our parishioners look forward to this every year. We like to welcome people to this sacred place, to this very special shrine, and we know it's very meaningful to people in the Tri-State area. It's very hard for us to say we can't welcome people this year. But given the circumstances we are going to follow the directives of the governor's office, the mayor's office and the Conference of Catholic Bishops in Ohio."

Fecko says the church is looking at inviting people to return to the steps when coronavirus restrictions are lifted. "Once the virus is under control, I think people are going to be looking for something as a way to say thanks to God for getting us through this difficult time. We're hoping this might be a place where people might be willing to come."

Fecko says the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima in May might be a little too soon. He says they're looking at dates in September and October.