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MEXICO: The Virgin of Guadalupe

Today, Sunday, is the culmination of the Catholic youth festival in Toronto. Some 200.000 (?) children put up with the hardship of sleeping in the fields or in simple accommodations to take part in the event. The Pope spoke in good Spanish to the Latin Americans, but I did not hear a single reference to the Virgin of Guadalupe. From Toronto he flies to Guatemala to canonize Brother Pedro, who, having been born in Spain, is a link between Spain and the Americas. Presumably there was the usual pressure on the Vatican to give Guatemala its own saint.

From Guatemala the Pope flies to Mexico to canonize Juan Diego. The event is being transformed into a big show, with a play about Juan Diego, taking us back to the medieval origins of the modern theater. In San Antonio, Texas, the theme of the mass was the canonization of Juan Diego, which will be celebrated there in a special service on Wednesday. A Mexican read a passage in Nahuatl, and then explained that the Virgin spoke in that language to Juan Diego, and those were her words. The Virgin must have the gift of tongues. Juan Diego has a Nahuatl name, but it is seldom used. Presumably he will become San Juan Diego, one more in the list of saints named John. There was no mention of Brother Pedro, who will become San Guatemala? Another saint named Peter.

There was something unconvincing in these appeals to children and the credulous. The Economist (7/27/02) ran an article on religion in Mexico entitled "Staying alive. Mexicans are increasingly turning away from the Catholic Church". It said the canonization of Juan Diego was part of an attempt to stage a recovery. Protestants are gaining ground, especially in Chiapas. For Jesuit priests like Sergio Cobo, who heads a Catholic agency that works in Chiapas, the canonization of Juan Diego is merely a distraction from the real problems the church faces.

Ronald Hilton - 7/28/02