50,000 Walk a Week or More to Guadalupe Shrine

Basilica Rector Urges Baptized to Be Witnesses in World

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By Sergio Estrada

MEXICO CITY, JULY 23, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Mexico's oldest pilgrimage -- and the one that attracts the most pilgrims, with 50,000 participants this year -- concluded Sunday at the feet of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Reminiscent of pilgrimages of the Middle Ages, the group walked south from the state of Queretaro to Mexico City. The journey took anywhere from 7 to 18 days to complete.

The Diocese of Queretaro sponsors the pilgrimage each year. The men's pilgrimage has a 118-year history. The women's pilgrimage marked its 50th anniversary this year.

Bishop Mario de Gasperín Gasperín of Queretaro and Monsignor Diego Monroy, rector of the basilica, welcomed the pilgrims upon their arrival.

The prelate thanked the pilgrims for their participation: "For us it is a moment of grace and blessing to hear the Word of God, which makes us reflect on our lives."

Blessings

"The people who come want the good of Mexico, our homeland and our Church," the bishop added. "I am very happy to head this pilgrimage; may the Virgin, whom we always keep present, bless all the pilgrims. We will offer the Mass for our migrant brothers, as many have pinned their hopes on this pilgrimage, entrusting themselves to God."

Hilda Garcia, vice president of the 2008 Association of Women Pilgrims to Tepeyac, explained to ZENIT that the participants sang and were joyful throughout the pilgrimage, though they met with three consecutive days of heavy rains. "Some of us left on July 12 and arrived in this shrine 18 days later," she said.

Monsignor Monroy said in a press conference that "these pilgrimages give us all feedback, benefit us by their dedication and commitment, 50 years by women and 118 years by men -- a great motivation. I accompanied them on the walk and received them here, because it is the task of the rector of this shrine."

Monsignor Monroy affirmed that "our country must continue to walk, despite its afflictions, on the path of peace, justice, progress and truth, because the Virgin is in the lead for Jesus Christ, for she said to us 'do whatever my Son tells you.'"

He exhorted the baptized to be the leaven, "even if we see ourselves threatened by drug trafficking, alcoholism, injustice, corruption, famine, poverty and misery. This is the challenge faced by pilgrims who come to preach the Kingdom of God."