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Guatemala to be declared 'Ibero-American Pro-Life Capital'

President Alejandro Giammattei of Guatemala speaks during on online event organized by The Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 6, 2021. / Courtesy of Secretaría de Comunicación Social de la Presidencia de Guatemala

Washington D.C., Dec 16, 2021 / 16:03 pm (CNA).

The Family Matters Association of Guatemala (AFI) welcomed the recent announcement by President Alejandro Giammattei that the country will be declared the “Ibero-American Pro-Life Capital” on March 9, 2022.

“This has been the result of years of work, both by civil society and by organizations that actively work to support life, family and freedom, as well as by officials in different administrations who have used their positions to courageously defend these values,” the organization said in a statement Dec. 15. “In addition, it is the reflection of the values of Guatemalan society. Being pro-life is in our DNA as Guatemalans!”

Giammattei made the announcement Dec. 6, during his participation in an online event organized by the Heritage Foundation which is based in Washington, D.C.

At the beginning of his speech, the president said that Guatemala is "a country of faith" such that in governing it "each government institution has a clear direction and coordination in respecting life from conception and the protection of the family as the central axis of society.”

He then announced: “Our Government has promoted the Public Policy for the Protection of Life and the Family as an Institution. Let me even share with you that Guatemala will be declared the Ibero-American Pro-Life Capital on March 9.”

The new public policy legislation was passed July 23 and is now the governing policy of the Ministry of Education.

In his speech, Giammattei stressed that "there is a great inter-institutional effort to strengthen the family and prevent early pregnancy."

In a joint statement, Ligia Briz, executive director of the AFI, and its legal and political director, José Estuardo Córdova, said that “the State of Guatemala has been characterized by defending life from the conception and the family as an institution” for several years and under different governments.

Among the outstanding examples, AFI highlighted the declarations made by the government “before the OAS and the UN in support of life” and the most recent signing of the Geneva Consensus Declaration on Promoting Women's Health and Strengthening the Family at an event held at the National Palace of Culture in the country's capital.

AFI also pointed to the "ruling by the Supreme Court of Justice that was made final in 2018, which prohibits the distribution of material that promotes abortion in any way."

The ruling is a landmark decision “for the defense of the unborn, making it clear that they are the subject of rights from the moment of conception," the AFI said.

In the Congress, the AFI statement continued, “pro-life training events have been organized, called by the Governing Board of Congress; the Parliamentary Front for Life was created; and the majority in the Congress has stopped the efforts of leftist politicians to advance the abortion agenda.”

The pro-life organization also highlighted that in Guatemala, Planned Parenthood was prevented from registering as an organization in the country, and that in 2017 the 'Women on Waves' ship was expelled from the country, which was intending to perform abortions by picking up women from the Guatemalan coasts and taking them to international waters.”

“None of this would be possible without the support and incessant work of the more than 45 associations that are affiliated with the AFI, which every day work for life from conception and in all its stages, as well as for the well-being of families, women, children, youths, adolescents and the elderly. This year alone, all the associations together impacted more than 3.5 million people!” the AFI said.

Finally, the organization noted that "Guatemalan society has spoken countless times in support of life and family, as in the mass marches of 2013, 2018 and recently the caravan in 2021."

"We will continue working tirelessly so that Guatemala continues to be the pro-life capital of Latin America!" the AFI statement concluded.

Other government efforts to help children 

In his speech, President Giammattei said another "great effort of his Government" revolves around "preventing malnutrition in children, improving social programs and food security and promoting the Great Crusade for Nutrition that will allow a public-private effort to respond to this scourge.”

“Children represent the most precious treasure of a country, since they represent the future. Guatemala has taken special interest in them, especially the forced labor to which they can be subjected,” he said.

The Guatemalan government has already implemented the "National Strategy for the Prevention and Eradication of Child Labor and Protection of Adolescent Workers." The strategy’s action plan covers the years 2021 to 2025 in conjunction with the General Government Policy, which seeks the implementation of strategic actions, strengthening inter-institutional coordination and intersectoral alliances, on the national level, and by establishing commitment with local and municipal governments.

In addition, the government of Guatemala each year has carried out awareness campaigns about the importance of ending child labor, which is why each year the World Day Against Child Labor is observed.

“It is important to mention that the different efforts of the State of Guatemala to eradicate child labor has allowed it to be recognized by the Department of Labor of the United States of America, for four years, as one of the countries with significant progress in the fight against child labor,” Giammattei noted in his speech. 

This story was originally published in Spanish by ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish-language sister news agency. It has been translated by CNA.

New placements announced for seminarians after controversial closure of seminary in Argentina

Seminarians of the San Rafael, Argentina, seminary. / Aci Prensa

San Rafael, Argentina, Dec 16, 2021 / 14:34 pm (CNA).

The Diocese of San Rafael in Argentina’s Mendoza Province announced the new placements for the seminarians who were attending Santa María Madre de Dios (Holy Mary Mother of God) Seminary which was closed in November 2020. 

The new assignments were published Dec. 10 in the diocesan publication De Buena Fe.

According to the communiqué, the new assignments were determined after a probationary period “as established by the ecclesiastical authority, and the various evaluations that were made of each one of them and that, in due course, were sent to the Holy See for their final resolution.”

Four diocesan seminaries were selected “in consensus with their respective bishops” for the seminarians to continue their formation for the priesthood beginning in 2022.

The following 12 seminarians have been reassigned: 

  • Seminarians Roberto Leonardo Ochoa Segura and Juan Diego Ramos Alonso will attend the Archdiocesan Seminary of Mendoza.

  • Seminarians Pedro José Elías Cappa and Martín Andrés Barotto will attend the Diocesan Seminary of Río Cuarto.

  • Seminarians Gabriel Alexis Font, Iván Gabriel Lazo, Tomás Alfredo Campi, and Erik Dante Mendez will attend the Archdiocesan Seminary of Buenos Aires.

  • Seminarians Maximiliano Martínez, Tomás Daniel Ramis, Ángel Humberto Reche Romo, and Ezequiel Elías Luján will attend the Archdiocesan Seminary of San Juan.

Without indicating their names or number, the diocesan statement explains that “those who had already completed their studies will complete their pastoral training under the direct responsibility of the Bishop of San Rafael, until the date of their ordination." 

ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language sister news agency, asked Father José Antonio Álvarez Domínguez, head of the San Rafael diocesan press office, how many seminarians are in this last group or if there are others who have decided to not continue with their formation. As of press time, no response has been received. 

ACI Prensa has learned that this group that has already completed their studies consists of four candidates to the priesthood, while another group has been sent to talk with the bishops of the dioceses in which they lived before entering the seminary of San Rafael, and a "significant number" have decided to end their priestly formation for different reasons.

The Holy Mary Mother of God Seminary in San Rafael was founded March 25, 1984 by Bishop León Kruk. From its creation it has been noted for its fidelity to the Church and the correct formation that future priests received there.

Given the success of the seminary and the suspicion of other bishops, there was pressure to send an apostolic visitor from the Vatican who came to San Rafael from June 11 to 14, 1986.

The result of the visit was that Pope St. John Paul II confirmed the work of the seminary.

A major controversy erupted last year over the impending closing of the seminary and after a series of protests by the local faithful, it was finally closed Nov. 27, 2020.

Bishop Eduardo Maria Taussig had announced in July of that year that the diocesan Mary Mother of God Seminary would be closed by the end of 2020, by order of the Vatican, and that the seminarians would be relocated to other Argentine seminaries.

In August 2020, the bishop said that the Congregation for the Clergy informed him that because the seminary had trouble maintaining a rector — having had seven in the past 15 years — it did not seem worth it to keep the seminary open.

That announcement came amid escalating tensions in the diocese between the bishop and a group of lay Catholics and priests, which began in mid-June, when Taussig announced that Holy Communion in the diocese could only be received standing and in the hand, not directly on the tongue while kneeling, because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The bishop's directive, consistent with norms announced in other dioceses in the region, also may have created tensions within the diocesan seminary itself.

A large number of the priests in San Rafael did not comply with directives regarding the distribution of Communion in the hand, among them many former students of the seminary, which was perceived by some to be behind the priests' reluctance to require Communion in the hand, the bishop said.

This refusal to comply had caused "serious scandal inside and outside the seminary and diocese," said Taussig.

The bishop said that reception of the Eucharist in the hand or on the tongue are both equally accepted by the Church.

Speaking to TVA El Nevado on July 27, 2020, Father José Antonio Álvarez, spokesman for the Diocese of San Rafael, said that "due to the undisciplined reaction of a good part of the clergy of the diocese at this time, this diocese does not have the possibility of putting together a formation team in conformity with the discipline of the Church."

On Aug. 20 last year, Taussig announced that he would impose canonical sanctions on priests who persisted in disobedience by giving Communion on the tongue and not in the hand.

After meeting with Pope Francis in late October 2020, Taussig said that the Vatican's decision to close the seminary "was not up for discussion" and will take effect later this year.

Catholics have repeatedly spoken out against the closure of the seminary, calling for caravans, prayer, and demonstrations outside the San Rafael diocesan headquarters.

In response to protests, Taussig published a letter Oct. 30, 2020 asking Catholics not to "come together for these anonymous gatherings," as "they aggravate the situation and may harm the seminarians themselves more, whom we all want to care for."

The bishop called previous demonstrations "acts of rebellion and contention." Messages stuck to walls and doors included a sign calling for the bishop to resign, another called him a traitor.

Bishops mourn deaths of two police officers killed in terrorist attack at Colombia airport

Camilo Daza airport in the city of Cúcuta, Venezuela. / EEIM

Cucuta, Colombia, Dec 15, 2021 / 15:34 pm (CNA).

Bishop Víctor Manuel Ochoa Cadavid of the Military Ordinariate of Colombia expressed his sorrow and solidarity following the Dec. 14 terrorist attack that took the lives of two police officers at the Camilo Daza airport in the city of Cúcuta, located on the border with Venezuela.

"Great sadness and great sorrow for what happened in Cúcuta, where two members of the National Police have fallen: David Reyes and William Bareño," Bishop Ochoa said in a Dec. 14 statement to ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language sister news agency.

CNN en Español aired a statement by Colonel Giovanni Antonio Madariaga of the Metropolitan Police of Cúcuta who described the attack that took place between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. local time.

In an initial explosion, a person carrying a bomb was killed. Two officers from the bomb squad then searched the area to locate and deactivate any other device.

However, both were killed in a second explosion.

“They walk around the area and identify a suitcase. As they approach taking all safety measures, it detonates. Our two bomb squad technicians offered their lives for people’s safety," the colonel said.

"At this time we continue to collect all the material evidence to identify the way it was done, how they entered and what criminal and terrorist group is responsible," he added.

The Civil Aeronautics Administration announced the suspension of operations at the airport and asked travelers to "stay in constant communication with the airlines."

President Iván Duque repudiated on Twitter "the cowardly terrorist attack that occurred in the city of Cúcuta" and said that "immediate actions are being coordinated to find those responsible for this attack."

Bishop Ochoa told ACI Prensa that a few days ago the deceased policemen received the National Police Excellence Award for their heroism, “since they had defused a very large bomb in the Catatumbo area and now they intervened to deactivate the explosives at the airport.”

Catatumbo is a Colombian subregion located in northeast Norte de Santander Department, which stretches between the eastern mountain range of Colombia and Lake Maracaibo. It is made up of eleven municipalities and has historically suffered from guerrilla activity.

What happened today, the bishop continued, “is very sad news for us. The Military Diocese extends all its solidarity to the wives and children of these fallen men who lost their lives.”

Bishop Ochoa said funerals of officers Reyes and Bareño will be held and details are forthcoming.

In a statement sent to ACI Prensa by the Diocese of Cúcuta, Bishop José Libardo Garcés Monsalve also repudiated "vehemently these acts of violence against human life and the tranquility of civil society."

"We call for reconciliation and the disarmament of the hearts of the violent who try to destroy the invaluable gift of life," the prelate said in the statement.

"We urgently call for continuing to build the path to peace, that it may not be violated with these kinds of deeds that bring more pain and uncertainty to this region of the country that has been severely hit by violence for years."

The bishop also said he would accompany "with prayer the families of the members of the Public Force who today suffer the loss of their loved ones as a result of this deed."

This article was originally published by ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish-language sister news agency, and translated into English.

Venezuela bishops: 45 priests and four bishops have died from COVID-19 since start of pandemic

Forty-five priests and four bishops in Venezuela have died from COVID-19 as of December 2021, the Venezuela bishops' conference has reported. / Unsplash

Caracas, Venezuela, Dec 15, 2021 / 13:45 pm (CNA).

The Venezuelan bishops’ conference published new statistics showing that since the beginning of the pandemic 45 priests and four bishops have died from COVID-19.

The conference noted that "in the midst of the global crisis caused by the pandemic, priests are not exempt from the risks of contracting COVID-19," as they carry out their ministry.

"At a time when people more earnestly seek the comfort of the spirit and closeness to the faith … priests offer their service to the Church," the conference said.

The conference published current figures on the priests who were infected and died from the deadly virus. In the report, they noted that between March 2020 and Dec. 13, 2021, 439 priests were infected with COVID-19, a figure that represents 20.77% of the total clergy in the country.

During this period, 45 priests have died, or 10.25% of all priests infected with the virus, and 2.13% of all Venezuelan clergy.

Of those infected, 26 were bishops and of these 22 prelates recovered; the other four died in 2021.

The four bishops who died were Archbishop Cástor Oswaldo Azuaje, who served as the bishop of the Diocese of Trujillo until his death on January 8; Bishop César Ortega, who died on April 9; Archbishop Tulio Chirivella, Archbishop Emeritus of Barquisimeto, who died on April 11; and Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino, Archbishop Emeritus of Caracas, who died on Sept. 23.

The bishops’ conference said that the Church in Venezuela currently has 2,068 priests. Siixty are bishops and of these 41 are titular bishops, three are auxiliary bishops, and 16 are bishops emeritus.

The dioceses with the greatest number of priests are San Cristóbal (208), Trujillo (154), Barquisimeto (148), Mérida (127), Caracas (121), the conference reported.

The bishops’ conference said that since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic "it has urged the entire population to comply with the guidelines and recommendations in the field of biosafety" to prevent contracting the virus.

The conference also stressed that taking proper care of oneself, the family and the community “is the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19."

Finally, the bishops’ conference exhorted the faithful to "increase their trust in God in times of a health emergency" and encouraged them to continue praying from the Word of God, "especially in the family, the Domestic Church," since prayer "is an expression of the faith and hope that we need to strengthen."

Congressman with alleged terrorism ties backs effort to decriminalize abortion in Peru

Congressman Guillermo Bermejo / ANDINA / Renato Pajuelo and Pexels

Lima, Peru, Dec 14, 2021 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

A Peruvian congressman who is being investigated for ties to the Shining Path terrorist organization is supporting a new bill to decriminalize abortion in the country. 

Guillermo Bermejo, a member of the Peru Libre (Free Peru) ruling party, signed on to the bill after it was introduced Dec. 10. Introduced by leftist congresswoman Ruth Luque of the Juntos por el Perú party (Together for Peru), the bill would decriminalize abortion in cases of rape. 

Peru's Public Prosecutor's Office is currently asking for a 20 year prison sentence for Bermejo for his alleged ties to the Shining Path, a Marxist rebel group responsible for at least 31,000 deaths in the country since the 1980s.

In a Dec. 13 interview with ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language sister news agency, Peruvian pro-life leader Giuliana Calambrogio, who holds a master's degree in Marriage and Family from the University of Navarra, said Bermejo’s support for the bill shows he does not have women’s best interests at heart. 

“I am very struck by the fact that this bill is being pushed by the leftist Peru Libre, which during the campaign appeared to be pro-life,” Calambrogio said. 

“However, congressmen like Mr. Bermejo, accused of terrorism, clearly sign on to this bill because they’re not interested in protecting women, but rather the contributions or money that comes from [those who support] the gender agenda and abortion."

Former Peruvian congressional candidate Giuliana Calambrogio. Facebook
Former Peruvian congressional candidate Giuliana Calambrogio. Facebook

Twenty-two members of congress from the left and center of the political spectrum have signed onto the bill, representing parties such as Popular Action (liberal), Alliance for Progress (center-right), Free Peru (leftist), and the Morado Party (centrist). 

Peruvian law considers abortion a crime except in cases where the mother's health is at risk. Peru’s Constitution recognizes that “the conceived person is a subject of rights under the law...” while the Code on Children and Adolescents states that “every human being is considered a child from conception to twelve years of age.”

The current bill proposes amending Article 119 of the Penal Code so that abortion in cases of rape would be considered a non-punishable offense.

Calambrogio, a former congressional candidate for the conservative Popular Renewal party, told ACI Prensa that the introduction of this bill "doesn’t surprise her at all,” but "it’s a cause for concern for her."

"These people have an incessant campaign, very well financed from abroad, to implement abortion in our country, despite the fact that Peru is a pro-life nation that protects the life of the conceived child, just as our Constitution says," she explained.

Calambrogio said the new bill to decriminalize abortion "has very little support, has no clarity in the details and proposes abortion as the only solutiion to fight violence against women."

“Clearly, this bill isn’t concerned with women, but only with decriminalizing abortion. The text mentions that abortion caused by rape should be allowed, but the need to report the rape or to go through a forensic doctor [to do so] isn’t explicit, and there’s no mention of a [gestational] limit for the practice," she said.

The pro-life leader pointed out that this bill doesn’t stipulate “measures against the rapist”, either by “toughening the penalties” or by “speeding up of the judicial, prosecutorial and police processes.”

She also lamented that the unborn child is "unprotected" as if it were "a second-class being.”

Calambrogio pointed out that the term “forced pregnancy” is mentioned, but that “forced abortion isn’t mentioned, which is dramatic, because many times the systematic abuser, who has subjugated a woman, can take her to get an abortion [with no consequences], since a police report wasn’t required.”

Another objectionable point in the bill, Calambrogio said, “is its Article 6, which would introduce Comprehensive Sexual Education, making it legally obligatory, and whose guidelines are unknown.”

"It would be two for one, taking down legal protection for the unborn and forcing everyone to receive sexual education strongly supported and promoted by NGOs," she criticized.

Calambrogio reiterated her concern about the viability of this bill, since she considers Peru to be currently in the midst of "very great polarization" where "there is no cohesion within the political parties and where the voting blocs don’t necessarily respect the party platform.”

“The abortion lobbies don't just run big campaigns, they know how to buy votes. We have seen negotiating for votes involving the legalization of abortion in Argentina recently and that could easily happen in our country, especially in the midst of the political crisis, the crisis in values and with many congressional representatives who could sell out the welfare of the unborn for a mess of pottage,” she said.

The pro-life leader said she hopes that “a high level debate will take place” on the legislation. 

Calambrogio noted that "if we want a country free of violence against women, we must invest in prevention, education, accelerate judicial processes, work on health policies and support for women who are victims of rape, and protect the unborn child as a State."

“We can’t play with the value of life. The day when the life of the human being loses value will begin its instrumentalization, commercialization and murder without the slightest shame, as we have seen in other countries, where it begins with the decriminalization of abortion for rape and ends up legalizing it up to nine months,” she stressed.

Finally, she said that pro-lifers will be on "a war footing, vigilant, explaining to the congressmen, one by one, the real needs of raped women, the importance of respect for life that goes beyond any negotiating."

Nearly 2 million pilgrims visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City

Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. / Eduardo Berdejo/CNA.

Mexico City, Mexico, Dec 13, 2021 / 14:54 pm (CNA).

Almost 2 million pilgrims visited the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City between Dec. 1 and her Solemnity on Dec. 12, the Mexico City government reported.

The exact number to visit the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe during that period was 1,929,115 visitors.

As part of the “Welcome Pilgrim” operation, coordinated by the authorities, more than 9,000 civil servants from Mexico City were deployed, including police, rescuer workers, medical emergency units, firefighters, and others.

The Archbishop Primate of Mexico, Cardinal Carlos Aguiar Retes, offered the traditional Mass of the Roses in the basilica at noon Dec.12  

The cardinal said in his homily that "Mary is the Mother of the Church, Our Mother” and that "she has wanted to continue expressing her love, as Mother of the Church, which is why she came to Mexico, to seek us out in order to express her love to all of her children."

Unlike 2020, this year pilgrims were once again allowed to enter the basilica and health safety precautions were observed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Among the measures coordinated between the civil and ecclesiastical authorities were the required use of masks and that spending the night in the area surrounding the Marian shrine was prohibited.

The traditional "Mañanitas,” a well-known Mexican song to the Virgin of Guadalupe, was not performed in person with the faithful, but was pre-recorded and shown on social media.

For the celebration of the midnight Mass, the basilica encouraged the faithful to send photographs and candles to symbolize their presence in the church.

The Archdiocese of Mexico said that more than 1,400 photos and more than 1,400 candles were placed in the shrine.

The solemnity commemorates the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Juan Diego, an Aztec convert to Catholicism, in 1531.

Our Lady of Guadalupe made a request for a church to be built on the site where she appeared on Tepeyac, a hill northwest of what is now Mexico City.

As a sign for the bishop, she left an image of herself imprinted miraculously on his tilma, a poor quality cactus cloth. The tilma should have deteriorated within a few decades, yet it shows no sign of decay after over 490 years. To this day it defies all scientific explanations of its origin.

The apparition and its miraculous Marian image led to mass conversions of native American communities to Catholicism.

The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City is the most visited Marian shrine in the world. The annual number of visitors to the basilica is second only to Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.

PHOTOS: Our Lady of Guadalupe celebrations in a small town in Mexico

A procession in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Dec. 12, 2021 in a small town in the Mexican state of Guanajuato. / Courtney Mares

Guanajuato, Mexico, Dec 12, 2021 / 15:05 pm (CNA).

Celebrations began before dawn on Dec. 12 in a small town in the Mexican state of Guanajuato as church bells rang out, fireworks were lit, and people gathered to sing “las Mañanitas Guadalupanas” in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

For the past 15 days, the town has held rosary processions through the streets each day at 6 a.m. in spiritual preparation for the Marian feast. The processions, known as “Rosario de la Aurora,” culminated in a daily Mass in a church dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Throughout the weekend of Dec. 12, children dressed up as Saint Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe reenacted the 16th-century apparition in Tepeyac on the back of pick-up trucks in multiple parades through the banner-covered streets.

Musicians and people dressed in traditional embroidered clothes carrying baskets filled with enchiladas, fruit, and flowers followed behind in the procession singing “La Guadalupana.”

Masses were held every hour, but outdoor tents were still necessary to accommodate the overflow of people who could not fit in the Baroque Catholic Church.

The feast commemorates the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Juan Diego, an Aztec convert to Catholicism, in 1531.

Our Lady of Guadalupe made a request for a church to be built on the site where she appeared, Tepeyac, a hill northwest of what is now Mexico City.

As a sign for the bishop, she left an image of herself imprinted miraculously on his tilma, a poor quality cactus-cloth. The tilma should have deteriorated within 20 years, but shows no sign of decay after over 490 years. To this day it defies all scientific explanations of its origin.

The apparition and its miraculous Marian image led to mass conversions of native American communities to Catholicism.

The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City is the most visited Marian shrine in the world. The annual number of visitors to the basilica is second only to Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.

How the blind can 'see' Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico

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Mexico City, Mexico, Dec 11, 2021 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

Just inside the entrance to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City is a small area with a bas-relief sculpture of the Virgin Mary on display, designed especially for the blind to encounter Our Lady.

Fr. Umberto Mauro Marsich, an Italian Xavarian missionary priest, explained to ACI Prensa, CNA's Spanish language news partner, that the image is made of highly durable nylon fiber and is a gift from the Institute of Italian Culture and the Italian Embassy.

The sculpture is a “gift to the Archdiocese of Mexico so the blind can come here” and venerate Our Lady of Guadalupe, he said.

“They first read the entire description in Braille, the Nahuatl symbology of the image” on a panel to the side, “and then they come over and touch the image with their hands,” he explained.

Marsich, who holds a doctorate in moral theology and teaches at the Pontifical University of Mexico, played a key role in having the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe for the blind made and donated.

The idea came about in 2008 during an exposition of a painting of the Virgin de la Pera in Mexico which was brought to the country along with a much simpler bas-relief version.

The head of an association for the blind was in attendance at the exposition. When he touched the bas-relief image he said, “Why can't we do something similar with Our Lady of Guadalupe?”

Fr. Marsich, who was also there at the time, said he worked with two other Italians to have a bas-relief of Our Lady of Guadalupe made.

“My friend Faranda went back to Italy and looked for people to make donations” for the work of art, Marsich said.

The sculpture was produced in the city of Faenza, Italy, in 2009. It cost about $22,000 to make.

A few days after its completion, it was brought to Saint Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, where Pope Benedict XVI blessed it. It was then transported to Mexico and placed in the Guadalupe Basilica on Dec. 9, 2009.

More than 100 visually-impaired people gathered on the day the statue was installed in the basilica. Marsich said he was touched by their emotion, as, “finally being able to touch her, [they] discovered the beauty of the message conveyed to them by the Nahuatl symbology, which is a very luminous symbology.”

“People were so obviously moved that they were weeping,” he recalled.

However, the image is not just to be contemplated by visually impaired people, he pointed out.

The priest stressed that everyone can express “in some way our affection, our love, our tenderness for Mary, the Virgin of Guadalupe.”

Marsich hopes other bishops will be encouraged to ask for a replica of the image of the Virgin Mary for their dioceses, which he said would cost significantly less than the original.

This article was originally published on CNA on Dec 12, 2019.

Catholic leaders offer prayers after Mexico truck crash kills at least 54

Mexican national guard officers work in the area where a trucked rolled over after a traffic accident that killed migrants from Central America, Dec. 9, 2021 in Tuxtla Gutierrez, Mexico. A truck accident leaves at least 49 people dead and dozens injured according to authorities. Most of the victims are believed to be migrants from Central American who were travelling on a truck that rolled over and crashed into a pedestrian bridge. / Alfredo Pacheco/Getty Images

Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Mexico, Dec 10, 2021 / 17:19 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis has expressed his closeness to the victims of Thursday’s traffic accident in Mexico’s Chiapas state that caused the death of at least 54 people, and numerous injuries.

On the afternoon of Dec. 9 a speeding truck with about 150 people jammed into the trailer rolled over on the highway to Tuxtla Gutiérrez, a city about 100 miles from the border with Guatemala.

Mario Búcaro, Guatemala’s ambassador to Mexico, confirmed that the majority were Guatemalan migrants and that the rest came from other Central American countries.

In a telegram sent Dec. 10, the Holy Father said that he prays for the eternal rest of the deceased and expressed his deep sorrow to the families of the victims.

The telegram was sent to the Archbishop Fabio Martínez Castilla of Tuxtla Gutiérrez, and signed by the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

“Pope Francis, deeply saddened to learn the painful news of the traffic accident that occurred in Chiapas, which has caused the death of more than 50 migrants and many injured, offers his prayers for the eternal rest of the deceased.”

The Holy Father also expressed "his deep sorrow to the families of the victims, together with his heartfelt expressions of closeness and consolation, of lively solicitude and desire for the prompt recovery of the injured."

The Archdiocese of Tuxtla Gutiérrez expressed its "deep sadness" over the accident that "adds to a long list of the sufferings endured by our migrant brothers in their transit through our country."

In the message signed by Archbishop Martínez and Father Gilberto Hernández García, who is in charge of social ministry, the archdiocese said on Twitter that “We lift up our prayers to God, rich in mercy, and in consolation for these brothers of ours who have lost their lives in such a way. We also pray to God for those who have been injured in this accident, particularly those in more serious condition. We ask the Lord to look at them with compassion, strengthen them from within, and that, in his will, restore their lives and health.” 

They also expressed their condolences and “solidarity with their families” and encouraged them to “put your trust in God, who remains with you in this time of sorrow and death. We ask our Mother of Guadalupe to take you into her loving arms.”

"We call on the authorities to determine the facts regarding this unfortunate incident and establish the mechanisms so that situations like these are not repeated."

“The blood of these brothers cries out to Heaven; institutionalized corruption cries out to Heaven; indifference to the suffering of migrants cries out to Heaven,” the message of the Archdiocese of Tuxtla Gutiérrez concluded.

The Governor of Chiapas, Rutilio Escandón, expressed his solidarity with the victims and said that "responsibilities will be determined in accordance with the law."

What makes the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe so mysterious? EWTN documentary takes a look

Photo courtesy of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. / null

Denver Newsroom, Dec 10, 2021 / 15:19 pm (CNA).

The most-visited Marian shrine in the world is in Mexico City, and houses what is perhaps the most mysterious Catholic icon in the world: the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. 

The cloak on which the image appears, called a tilma, is woven from a non-durable material that can’t normally be expected to last more than a few decades. But this tilma has survived intact for nearly 500 years, nurturing the Catholic faith of literally millions of people. 

Michael O’Neill, who has made a name for himself as “The Miracle Hunter,” examines the mysteries surrounding the tilma in the EWTN documentary “Guadalupe Mysteries,” airing this Sunday. 

The conquistador Hernan Cortes brutally conquered the peoples of the area, O’Neill says, but until the Guadalupe image appeared, the Spanish largely failed to evangelize them. 

ACI Prensa / CNA
ACI Prensa / CNA

It wasn’t until the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared that the native people began to accept Christianity on a large scale. Today, the image forms an inextricable part of the history of Mexico, and facilitated the evangelization of an entire people. 

In the 1530s, Juan Diego was a native man in his forties and a member of one of the first native tribes to be baptized. While passing on a December day by Tepeyac Hill, he heard a beautiful voice calling to him. When he reached the summit, he saw a woman there who spoke to him in his native tongue, and told him that she wanted a chapel built there. 

Juan Diego delivered the message to the local bishop, who didn’t believe him at first. Diego returned to the hill, and at Mary’s direction, found roses growing on the hill, even though it was winter. He gathered them into his cloak, or tilma. 

When he unfurled the cloak in the presence of the bishop to show him the roses, a miraculous image of Mary was on the tilma. 

Mary herself used the name “Guadalupe.” Guadalupe was the name of a shrine in Spain, a fact which surprised the Spaniards. Spanish, Italian, and French artistic influences can be detected in the work. The Spaniards perceived the image as a Christian icon, full of intelligible Christian symbols such as the imagery of the moon at Mary’s feet and the blue of her dress. 

A basilica was built at the base of the hill, which eventually began to crumble. A new basilica was consecrated in 1976. 

The mysteries surrounding the tilma are innumerable, and many have been tested or brought to the forefront thanks to scientific inquiry. 

For example, astronomers have determined that the arrangement of stars on the Guadalupe image corresponds to how the stars would have appeared on Dec. 12, 1531. In addition, some of the flowers on the tilma correspond to the locations of volcanoes in Mexico, something no one at that time could have mapped with such accuracy. 

Under great magnification, shadowy figures have been discerned in Mary’s eyes, at a scale not possible for a human painter to have made. Various analyses have suggested a bearded man, and even several other figures, with the tiny images conforming to optical laws not known until the 19th century— such as the reflection patterns in real human eyes. 

Another baffling mystery is the tilma’s longevity. The cloak shows almost no signs of aging, despite the fragility of agave thread and the fact that the image was kept, unprotected, in a smoky, salty environment for over 100 years, seen and touched by thousands of people. 

Other, more miraculous occurrences have borne witness to the cloak’s resilience. At one point in 1785 when the frame was being cleaned, nitric acid spilled on it by accident, but it left no permanent stains. 

A man once tried in 1921 to blow up the image by detonating dynamite in the church, but despite the church practically crumbling around it, the image was unharmed. 

O’Neill examines these and many other mysteries surrounding this image of the Patroness of all America in the documentary. “Guadalupe Mysteries” will air on Dec. 12 at 1:30pm Eastern Time on EWTN.