Our Ladys Role in Popes Mexico, Cuba Trip

Benedict XVI Will Visit Mary in Both Countries

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By Paloma Rives, Special Correspondent

GUANAJUATO, Mexico, MARCH 19, 2012 (Zenit.org).- With only a few days left before Pope Benedict XVI begins his trip to Mexico, Catholics are looking forward to this visit which is taking place as the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between modern Mexico and the Vatican is marked.

The Pope will meet with Mexican President Felipe Calderon Hinojosa on Saturday, March 24, in the afternoon, at the Casa del Conde Rul in the city of Guanajuato.

This mansion is located in Peace Square, a few steps from the Basilica of Our Lady of Guanajuato. It belonged to Don Antonio de Obregon, count of Valencia.

From the mansion’s balconies, the work of architect Francisco Eduardo Tresguerras, Benedict XVI will greet hundreds of children who will be in Peace Square, after the Holy Father’s meeting with the Mexican president.

After this the Pope will pass through the main entrance of the Basilica where the city’s patroness is kept, under her title of Our Lady of Guanajuato.

I spoke about this with the abbot of the Basilica, Monsignor Juan Rodriguez Alba. He noted: “The image will be taken to the door of the church so that the Pope can bless it.”

The monsignor explained, “Every year, on August 9, the group of the Brotherhood of Carriers lowers the Virgin. She is taken for a certain time to each of the three doors of the Basilica so that those who visit her can receive her blessing and the next day people can pass under her mantle, close to the altar.

“This occasion is special. When we see or hear a child looking for its mother we are filled with tenderness, but when a mother looks for her child, we know that in addition to that tenderness there is protection, guidance and hope. The Virgin will meet the Holy Father during his walk to the house of Count Rul. We pray to our patroness to continue helping him in his difficult task of carrying out the mission of Vicar of Christ.”

Preparations in Cuba

Pope Benedict XVI will arrive in Antonio Maceo international airport of Santiago de Cuba on Monday, March 26. Immediately after, he will celebrate Mass on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the finding of the image of the Virgin of Charity of Cobre.

In its editorial of March 12, the Cuban government’s official newspaper stated: “Our country will feel honored in welcoming His Holiness with hospitality and in showing him the patriotism, culture and solidaristic and humanistic vocation of Cubans, on which the history and unity of the nation rest.”

The Granma newspaper continued: “We will also receive, with the friendship that characterizes us, the thousands of pilgrims  who will be with us on those undoubtedly memorable days.”

Fourteen years have passed since John Paul II’s historic visit to Cuba, to which Granma referred: “We received Pope John Paul II with the same sentiments who, before leaving, mentioned the ‘profound imprint’ that his stay left in him and was grateful for the ‘cordial hospitality, genuine expression of the Cuban soul.’”

The devotion to Mary, Mother of Christ, under her name Virgin of Charity of Cobre, will be an important part of the Holy Father’s pilgrimage to the Island.

Cardinal Jaime Ortega, the archbishop of Havana, addressed the people of Cuba in a message broadcast on the national TV channel Cubavision. In it, he began by referring to Pope John Paul II’s visit: “It was much awaited. It was the first visit of a Pope to Cuba. The special conditions of our country fixed the eyes of the world on that visit, and afterwards the comments in the Holy See, the appreciation of the Church in Rome, which was very high and positive and at the same time widely commented, in which Pope Benedict XVI intervened, who was then simply Cardinal Ratzinger.”

Cardinal Ortega explained the reason for Cuba’s inclusion in this trip. “He wished to include it because he always had this desire in his heart, but now he had an extraordinary opportunity: in Cuba we are celebrating the 400 years since the finding of the image of the Virgin of Charity of Cobre. It is a Jubilee Year. Cubans are pilgrimaging this year to the Shrine of Cobre to visit Cuba’s Patroness and the Pope wished to come as a pilgrim. This is the reason for the motto chosen for this visit: “’Pilgrim of Charity.’”

“Thousands upon thousands of Cubans, I would say millions, went out to meet the Virgin. It’s not their number which has impressed us; it is the show of religiosity of the people. It was seeing Cubans emerging from crossroads making the sign of the cross, kneeling as the Virgin passed by, raising their arms in prayer. Hence, the Pope is coming to confirm us in that faith, he is coming to reaffirms us in those Christian values which that faith planted in our country.”