(Vatican Radio) At the conclusion of Holy Mass Saturday at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, Pope Francis led the faithful in the Rite of Coronation of the image of the Most Holy Virgin of Guadalupe. Veronica Scarisbrick is our correspondent traveling with Pope Francis in Mexico. She takes a look at the importance of this Marian image and the history behind it:
Listen to Veronica Scarisbrick's report, "The Crowning of the Morenita":
“You are not an orphaned people, as you are proud to have a ‘Mother” Pope Francis once said speaking to Mexicans about Our Lady of Guadalupe.
I asked a number of people here Mexico City what the 'Morenita' meant to them and they all replied: 'She is our ‘Mother’. Except for one person, a security guard who replied: 'She is our 'jefa', our boss.
I don’t know what Pope Francis would have said to that but what’s certain is that his devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe runs deep.
Earlier in the day in his address to the Mexican bishops, he had said: “Could the Successor of Peter, called from the far south of Latin America, deprive himself of seeing la Virgen Morenita”
No surprise then that on the first full day of his visit he celebrated Holy Mass with the 'Guadalupe' faithful at the Shrine on the ‘Tepeyac’ hill above Mexico City where Our Lady appeared to Juan Diego all those centuries ago.
With a stretch of imagination the story began in 1519. It was Good Friday and Spaniard Hernan Cortés disembarked on the shores of the American continent to the dismay of the native Indians.Two days later the Franciscans who had sailed with him planted a wooden cross in the sand.Soon Cortés and his army had subjugated the mighty Aztec empire with its terrifying sacrificial practices.
But despite this military success the Franciscans had a hard time converting this people. They tried hard enough. They even learnt the Aztec languages going so far as to file down their incisors so as to better pronounce the unfamiliar sibilants.
But to no avail, few Aztecs converted.Then in 1531 something extraordinary happened to one of the few they had baptized. His name was Juan Diego, the place the Tepeyac hill by the azure lake that surrounded the city of Tenochtitlàn, now Mexico City.
Something the Aztec people who believed in signs from the skies understood: an ‘Apparition’. That of Our Lady, soon to be named by the Spaniards of 'Guadalupe'.
It was to be a Marian apparition which brought together the culture of the Spaniards and the Aztecs. Perhaps too because 'Our Lady' appeared as a 'mestizo', of mixed race. As we can see in the image that she left during her fourth apparition to Juan Diego on his simple sack-cloth garment tied at the shoulder, known as 'tilma'.
This artefact together with a text dating back to the 16th century are all that tangibly remains to explain this apparition after which eight million Amerindians converted to the Catholic faith.
In the twentieth century Pope Pius XI declared our Lady of Guadalupe Queen of Mexico and Patroness and Protectress of Latin America and the Philippines. His successor to the See of Peter Pius XII stepped this up to both Americas.
And now in the 21st century the first Latin America Pope has celebrated Holy Mass with the Guadalupe faithful. Adding his very own touch to the devotion by crowning her with a gold and silver tiara.
Veronica Scarisbrick, Mexico City
More about Our Lady of Guadalupe:
The miraculous image dates back to 1531, when the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to St Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin. Since that time, the Virgin, under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe, has been proclaimed Patroness of Mexico, Patroness and Empress of the Americas, and Heavenly Patroness of the Philippines. She is also known as the Protectress of Unborn Children.The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe is one of the most visited pilgrimmage places in the world, with millions of pilgrims coming each year to venerate the sacred image.
Below, please find the prayer for the Coronation of the Image of the Most Holy Virgin of Guadalupe:
Blessed are you, O Lord,
God of heaven and earth,
who, in your mercy and justice,
cast down the proud,
and exalt the humble.
In the wondrous designs of your providence,
you have offered a perfect model
in the Incarnate Word and in the Virgin Mother:
Your Son, who voluntarily humbled Himself,
even to death on the Cross,
shines in eternal glory
and sits at your right hand
as King of kings and Lord of lords.
And the Virgin, who desired to call herself your handmaid,
who was chosen as Mother of the Redeemer
and true Mother of the living,
and now, lifted up above the choirs of angels,
gloriously reigns beside her Son,
interceding for all men,
the advocate of grace
and queen of mercy.
Look with kindness, O Lord, on these your servants
who, in placing a royal diadem
upon the image of the Mother of your Son,
recognize in your Son the King of the universe,
and invoke, as Queen, the Virgin.
in following their example,
we too might consecrate ourselves to your service,
and make ourselves available to others,
fulfilling the law of charity,
thus triumphing over selfishness,
and in generously giving
we might lead our brothers and sisters to you.
seeking humility on earth,
we might one day be lifted to the heights of heaven,
where you yourself will place
on the heads of your faithful
the crown of life.
Through Christ our Lord.