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In silence before ‘la Morenita’

The Pope’s long, silent prayer before the unique and deeply venerated image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas, was inspiring. The important moment that was hoped for, asked for, announced, Pope Francis then emphasized in the addresses and homilies he gave in Mexico City, beginning with his speech to authorities in the Palacio Nacional, the symbolic seat of political power that for the first time opened its doors to a Pontiff.

Francis is the third Pope to visit this great North American country. At the beginning of the meeting with bishops in the Cathedral, he asked how “could the Successor of Peter, called from the far south of Latin America” not “rest his gaze on la Virgen Morenita”? With a desire, he added, to meet Mary’s motherly gaze in turn?

The very gaze of Our Lady of Guadalupe, where “the secret heart of each Mexican” is to be found, was chosen by the Pontiff as the common thread for the long and challenging reflection that characterized his meeting with the country’s bishops. In his international journeys, Pope Francis has always reserved ample and significant space for this special moment, which achieves Catholic communion and true pastoral sharing. It was thus this time too.

The central image of the Pope’s address to the Mexican Episcopacy was therefore that of the gaze: both of la Morenita, and of those who contemplate her and in their turn have the responsibility to care for others, to offer them the womb of Christian faith and a reflection of the tenderness of God. Bishops need to pay particular attention to young people, the Pontiff said. Above all, and with powerful expressions, he urged them to courageously confront the demoralizing phenomena of corruption and drug trafficking, which, he compared to a rampant “metastasis”.

Indeed, bishops must look to the example of God’s “gracious humility and his bowing down to help us”, which culminates in the Incarnation. Francis emphasized this concept, repeating the term the Greek Fathers used to define it: sincatábasis. For this reason, the Mexican Episcopacy, standing “on the shoulders of giants” — namely, our predecessors in the faith who help us to see far into the distance — must draw from the treasure stored in their past. And do so with the certainty, shown by the Pope, that Mexico and its Church “will make it in time to that rendezvous with themselves, with history and with God”.

The same encouragement which Paul vi had expressed to Mexican Catholics was quoted by his Successor, Francis, at the end of the Mass in Ecatepec. Precisely out of love for Christ, the Virgin loved her neighbour, and this “must be the rule governing all human relations”, Pope Montini recalled. He added that one must see “in every man a brother and, in every brother Christ, in order that love of God and of mankind be joined in one living and operative love, the only thing that can remedy the miseries of the world and renew it at its deepest root: the heart of man”.

g.m.v.

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