Mexican pilgrims hope papal visit will bring much-needed change

By Junno Arocho Esteves

(CNS) — With anticipation growing in the streets of Mexico City for Pope
Francis’ visit, a group of local pilgrims found time to thank their “mother”
and prayed that it would give their country a spiritual awakening.

preparations were underway at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe Feb. 11 as
workers installed scaffolding and chairs for the thousands of people expected
to attend the papal Mass Feb. 13.

countless security measures have made traveling to the basilica difficult,
before the pope’s arrival, pilgrims from across the country continued to come to try to catch a glimpse
and pray in front of the mantle bearing the miraculous image of Mary.

A group of
local farmers from the village of Nuestro Senor de las Maravillas were one of the countless groups waiting to enter the basilica’s
Holy Door.

Jose Gomez,
one of the pilgrims in the group, explained that the pilgrimage was a tradition
carried out by the farmers of his village for more than half a century. 

make this pilgrimage to give thanks to the Virgin Mary for everything that has
gone well and to pray that it continues to go well,” Gomez told Catholic News

Devotion to
Our Lady of Guadalupe, who appeared to St. Juan Diego in 1531, is a cornerstone
of Mexican faith. Often referring to Mary as “madre” (mother), the pilgrims noted
that the pope shares their filial devotion.

For Gomez,
the pope’s visit to the basilica is a touching honor. 

“It means a lot for
us that he’s coming because he doesn’t go to just any country he wants. We’re
really happy he’s coming,” he said.

Montier, whose grandfather was one of the first farmers to travel on the annual
pilgrimage to the basilica, continues the tradition. To spend a few minutes
walking to the basilica, he said, “is nothing compared to all that our
mother gives us.”

noted that although the pope is “closer to (Mary) ” and “knows a
lot more things compared to us indigenous people,” he still “considers her
a mother just like we do.”

me, the devotion he has to the image of the Blessed Mother makes me really
happy,” he told CNS. “I’m very happy that he can come and give us his
blessing, the people who believe in her.”

Carrying a
banner embroidered with the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Maria Concepcion
said she was grateful to God for the pope’s visit. She also hoped that it would
provoke a change for the better in her country, which has suffered greatly due
to violence, drug trafficking and political corruption.

hope that he’ll reflect on what is wrong in our country and we’re also hoping
for, at least, a spiritual change here,” she said.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @Arochoju.

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