Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Vatican City, 12 December 2012 (VIS) - The phases of Revelation, conveyed in the Scriptures and culminating in the Advent of Jesus Christ, were the theme of Benedict XVI's catechesis during today's general audience, which took place in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall. In view of the Year of Faith, the Pope renewed his invitation to read the Bible more frequently and to pay closer attention to the readings at Sunday Mass, to provide "valuable nourishment for our faith".
The Pope observed that "reading the Old Testament, we see how God's interventions in the history of the chosen people with whom He established an alliance were not passing events forgotten over time, but rather become living 'memory', together constituting the 'story of salvation' that resides in the consciousness of the people of Israel through the celebration of salvific events", such as Easter. "For all the people of Israel, to recall God's work becomes a sort of constant imperative, in order that the passage of time be marked by the living memory of past events which thus create history anew, day by day, remaining ever present. ... Faith is nurtured by the discovery and the memory of God who is always faithful, who guides history and is the sound and stable foundation upon which life should be built".
Benedict XVI explained that for Israel, the Exodus "is the central historical event in which God reveals the power of his action. God frees the Israelites from the bondage of Egypt so that they may return to the Promised Land and worship Him as the one true God. Israel does not set out to become a nation like any other ... but rather to serve God in worship and in life ... and to bear witness to God amid other peoples. And the celebration of this event renders it present and current, as the work of God does not cease. ... God reveals Himself not only in the primordial act of creation, but by entering into our history, into the history of a small population that was neither the most numerous nor the strongest of its time. This Revelation of God ... culminates in Jesus Christ: God, the Logos, the creating Word at the origin of the world, is made flesh in Jesus and thereby shows His true face. In Jesus every promise is fulfilled; the story of God and humanity finds its culmination in Him".
"The Catechism of the Catholic Church summarises the phases of divine Revelation", continued the Holy Father. "God has invited mankind, since the very beginning, to engage in profound communion with Him, and even when man, through his own disobedience, lost His friendship, God did not abandon him to the force of death, but renewed His offer of alliance with man many times. The Catechism chronicles God's path with man from His covenant with Noah following the flood, to the command to Abraham to leave his homeland and become the patriarch of a multitude of peoples. God creates Israel as His people, through the Exodus, the Sinai covenant and the giving of the Law through Moses, so as to be recognised and served as the one true and living God. By means of the prophets, God leads His people in the hope of salvation ... In the end, they no longer await a king, David, the Son of David, but rather the 'Son of Man, saviour of all peoples' ... In this we see how the path of God broadens and opens the way towards the Mystery of Christ, the King of the universe. Revelation finds its full realisation in Christ, in God's benevolent plan: He becomes one of us. All these steps demonstrate "a single salvific plan dedicated to all of humanity, progressively revealed and realised through the power of God".
The Pope then turned his attention to the liturgical time of Advent, which prepares us for Christmas. "As we all know, the word 'Advent' means 'coming' or 'presence', and historically indicated the arrival of the king or the emperor in a province. For us as Christians it has the wonderful and awe-inspiring meaning that God Himself has crossed over from Heaven and inclined towards man; he has made a covenant with man, entering into the history of His people. He is the king who enters into the poor province of earth, offering us the gift of His visit, taking on human flesh and becoming one of us. Advent invites us to retrace this path and reminds us again the God has not left this world, He is not absent and has not abandoned us to our own devices, but instead draws towards us in various ways that we must learn to recognise. And we too, with our faith, hope and charity, are called upon every day to perceive and witness this presence, in a world so often superficial and led astray, and to make the light that illuminated the stable in Bethlehem shine anew in our lives".
Vatican City, 12 December 2012 (VIS) - "Dear friends, I am pleased to get in touch with you through Twitter. Thank you for your generous response. I bless all of you from my heart".
This was Benedict XVI's first tweet, published after the blessing that concluded today's general audience. The Pope used a tablet to send his first tweet, which was transmitted in eight languages (English, Italian, Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Polish and Arabic), and displayed on a screen installed in the Paul VI Hall.
Throughout the day the Pope will respond to three questions - submitted from three different continents - selected from those sent during recent days.
The Holy Father already has over one million followers on Twitter.
Vatican City, 12 December 2012 (VIS) - The Holy Father appointed Bishop Sergio Eduardo Castriani C.S.Sp., bishop prelate of Tefe, Brazil, as metropolitan archbishop of Manaus (area 64,079, population 1,551,000, Catholics 1,331,000, priests 163, permanent deacons 16, religious 298), Brazil. He succeeds Archbishop Luiz Soares Vieira, whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same archdiocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit.


kateri_4CCCB RELEASE: This year, through the miracles of God and the prayers of the Church, we are celebrating the solemn declaration that Kateri Tekakwitha is a saint and model for all Christians. What meaning does her life and death have today? Her message is the same that Jesus the Christ proclaimed 2000 years ago, and which he continues to teach us today.

IN response to an invitation earlier this year by the Canadian Catholic Aboriginal Council, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops offers the following message for the 12 December 2012 Day of Prayer in Solidarity with Indigenous People:
Saint Kateri Tekakwitha: A model for loving and following Jesus
The heart of Our Lord’s teaching is found in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5.3-11; Luke 6.20-23). Their light shines brightly in the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints. It is this light that the Church also recognizes in Kateri. This message of Jesus is daily and eternal, inviting us to decide how to respond to the deepest desire for happiness which God has placed in our heart.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Kateri lived simply and austerely, searching how to love Jesus and at the same time be faithful to the traditions of her people. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. All her life, she was weak, scarred and partially blind because of the smallpox which had killed her parents and a younger brother when she was between four and six years old.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Already as a young girl, Kateri learned to carry firewood and fetch water, to make soup and bread. Later, she used sticks to make crosses, a sign of Christ’s mercy, and place these in the woods. Her prayer at death was as simple as her life itself: “Jesus, I love you.” Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Kateri participated in the winter hunts, and worshipped God in the woods and forest. She is recorded as saying, “My body is served most luxuriously in the forest, but the soul languishes there, and is not able to satisfy its hunger.”
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Kateri taught the young, and assisted the sick and elderly. She refused to speak ill of others. Although infirm, she was always the first to work. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. She insisted on making a promise of perpetual virginity, and wanted to form a community of Sisters who would all be Aboriginal women. “I have consecrated myself entirely to Jesus, son of Mary,” she said.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Kateri is described as joyful, patient and always wanting to help others. She would ask, “Who can tell me what is most pleasing to God that I may do it?”Blessed are they are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. After her baptism, she was derided for becoming a Christian, outcast from her native village, and so ended her years at a mission. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven. Ridiculed because of her baptism, she sought refuge over 300 kilometres away, walking through woods, rivers and swamps.
When she was beatified in 1980, Blessed John Paul II described Kateri as “a kind, gentle and hardworking person, spending her time working, praying, and meditating”. In the last months of her life, he said, we continue to see a woman of “solid faith, straight-forward humility, calm resignation and radiant joy, even in the midst of terrible sufferings.”
This past October, when Kateri was canonized, Pope Benedict XVI said she had led a simple life, remaining faithful to her love for Jesus, to prayer and to daily Mass. “Her greatest wish was to know and to do what pleased God,” the Pope continued. “She lived a life radiant with faith and purity. Kateri impresses us by the action of grace in her life, in spite of the absence of external help, and by the courage of her vocation.”
Pope Benedict has entrusted the renewal of faith in the First Nations and of all North America to Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, “Protectress of Canada”. In the words of the Holy Father, may she, with all the saints, be a witness to us of lives “generously spent for love of Christ,” strengthening and sustaining the whole Church and each of us in our mission of proclaiming the Gospel. For as Jesus said when concluding his teaching on the Beatitudes (Matthew 5.13,14), we are called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
For further information and reflection
The following homilies and newspaper article from earlier this year (listed in chronological order) offer further information and reflection on Saint Kateri Tekakwitha. She was born in 1656 in what is now the Diocese of Albany in New York State, and died on 17 April 1680 at the Jesuit mission village of Kahnawake, south of Montreal in New France, in what is now the Diocese of Saint-Jean-Longueuil.
  1. Father Thomas Rosica, C.S.B. “Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha: Mohawk Mystic of North America, Model of the First Evangelization and New Evangelization”, published originally in L’Osservatore Romano, English-language edition, 7 March 2012.
  2. Pope Benedict XVI, Homily at the Mass of Canonization, Saint Peter’s Square, Rome, 21 October 2012.
  3. Archbishop Richard Smith, President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, Homily at the Mass of Thanksgiving, Basilica of Saint John Lateran, Rome, 22 October 2012.
  4. Bishop Lionel Gendron, P.S.S., from the Diocese of Saint-Jean-Longueuil where Saint Kateri is buried, Homily at the Mass of Thanksgiving, Saint Joseph Oratory, Montreal, 4 November 2012.
December 2012




Agenzia Fides REPORT - "The political parties have taken note of the appointment of the new Prime Minister and the resignation of the previous. The political group that supports the military junta has expressed its consent to the change of the Premier " says to Fides Agency Fr. Edmond Dembele, Secretary of the Episcopal Conference of Mali where, after the forced resignation of Premier Cheick Modibo Diarra (see Fides 11/12 / 2012), the President ad interim Dioncounda Traoré yesterday appointed a new Prime Minister: Diango Cissoko.
Former Prime Minister Diarra was forced to resign after being arrested by the military junta that had taken power in the aftermath of the coup in March 2012 and that, despite the creation of new civil institutions, continues to exert a considerable weight in the political life of Mali.
"Not all parties have expressed themselves on the latest developments, but in general one gets the impression that the entire political class has welcomed the resignation of Diarra because there were several disputes with him, especially on the conduct of national coordination and management of the conflict in the north. The change of the Prime Minister has therefore been accepted by all the political forces, even if not everyone appreciated the way Diarra was forced to resign, " notes Fr. Dembele.
The forced resignation of Diarra have been criticized by the United Nations, European Union and other countries that were committed to helping Mali to retrieve the north in the hands of fundamentalist armed groups. "The negotiations that began in Burkina Faso to resolve the crisis in northern Mali have been suspended. But with regard to the creation of a military force of ECOWAS to send in Mali, the President ad interim has assured that he intends to accelerate, and the same Amadou Haya Sanogo (the head of the former military junta who played a key role in the resignation of Diarra, ed.) assured he is not contrary to the presence of foreign troops in the Country and indeed wants to facilitate their arrival," refers Fr. Dembele. "A new government will be formed by the end of the week, we will see the developments," said the priest. (L.M.)


Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese REPORT
12 Dec 2012

Archbishop Paul Gallagher named as Australia's new Apostolic Nuncio
Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher has been named as the new Apostolic Nuncio to Australia by Pope Benedict XVI.
The 58-year-old prelate takes over from the former nuncio to Australia, Archbishop Guiseppe Lazzarotto who took up his new Papal appointment as nuncio of Cyprus in August this year.
Archbishop Gallagher was born in Liverpool, UK, educated at St Francis Xavier's College and was ordained on 31 July 1977 by Archbishop Derek Worlock, the then Archbishop of Liverpool.
With a doctorate in Canon Law from the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy in Rome, the English Archbishop became a member of the Holy See's diplomatic service in May 1984.
Fluent in French, Italian and Spanish, Archbishop Gallagher held diplomatic posts in Tanzania, Uruguay, the Philippines, Vatican Secretariat of State and at the Council of Europe where he was based in Strasbourg.
In 1997 he was appointed Counselor First Class while working at the Nunciature in Burundi. This was followed in January 2004 when he was appointed Titular Archbishop of Hodelm and named Apostolic Nuncio to Burundi. His time in Burundi, the landlocked nation in central Africa was tumultuous and in 2008 his residence was bombed as the country underwent a further period of unrest.

Former nuncio to Australia Archbishop Guiseppe Lazarrotto is now Apostolic Nuncio to Cyrprus
In February 2009, Archbishop Gallagher left Africa to take over as Apostolic Nuncio to Guatemala where he is currently serving.
The Vatican made the announcement of the Holy Father's appointment of Archbishop Gallagher to Australia last night.
Australia's new nuncio is expected to arrive here early in January.
Archbishop Gallagher will be the 15th Apostolic Nuncio of Australia and is the first non-Italian nuncio to be named to the post.
Since the first appointment by the Holy See of Bishop Bonaventura Cerretti in (1914-17) as nuncio to Australia, all the ensuing nuncios were Italian.
But last night Pope Benedict XVI broke with tradition and named Australia's first-ever English-born prelate as the new nuncio to Australia.


By Mark Greaves on Wednesday, 12 December 2012
The Sisters intend to follow the Rule of St Benedict (Photo: Fr James Bradley)
Eleven Anglican Sisters will be received into the Catholic Church via the ordinariate, it emerged this week.
The Sisters, from the Community of St Mary the Virgin in Wantage, Oxfordshire, will be received into the Church by Mgr Keith Newton, leader of the ordinariate in England and Wales, on New Year’s Day.
The group, which ranges in age from 45 to 83, includes the mother superior of the community and a Sister who was once a minister in the Church of England. Three are in their 80s.
Next year they will stay for six weeks at a Benedictine convent. After that, they do not know where they will live and they have no endowments to keep them afloat financially.
Mother Winsome said: “We’ve got an uncertain future. But we are doing this because we truly believe this is God’s call. The Bible is full of people called to step out in faith not knowing where they were going or how they will be provided for and that truly is the situation we are following.”
The community, inspired by the Oxford Movement and founded in 1848, streams its daily offices live on its website and offers retreats and meditations online.
Mother Winsome, in a letter to friends and associates, said Sisters had been coming to speak to her privately about joining the ordinariate since 2009. Once there was a “critical mass”, and after gaining permission from each Sister, she raised the subject with the community.
The decision by 11 of the Sisters, she said, had been reached “after constant prayer and in discussion with spiritual advisers”.
They will leave 30 or so members behind in Wantage. Mother Winsome said they had wanted to stay at the convent, with Anglican and Catholic Sisters worshipping together, though with “appropriate Eucharistic provision”. That way, she said, they could carry on caring for Sisters who were elderly and frail.
But she wrote: “After considerable discussion with the authorities of the Church of England and the ordinariate, it has become clear that this would not be possible.”
The 11 Sisters, she wrote, “are in the main, but not exclusively, the able bodied members who provide the work and management to keep the Community going, so, since the ordinariate community do have to relocate, considerable time has been spent and will continue to be devoted to ensure that the remaining members of CSMV will be well cared for: spiritually, physically, emotionally as well as financially.”
Mother Winsome said the Sisters were likely to return to Wantage as guests until they found a permanent home.
The community, which will be called the Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary, will be joined by one of the three Walsingham Sisters received into the Church before the ordinariate was first launched. They are intending to follow the Rule of St Benedict.
Sister Patricia Ann, who used to be a minister in the Church of England, said in a statement that she was not the first Anglican woman priest to “lay down” her ordination within the Anglican Church.
Mgr Newton, the ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, said the Community of St Mary the Virgin had been “at the heart of the Church of England’s religious life” since it was founded.
He said: “The contribution of the community to the life of the Anglican Communion has been significant, not least through the community’s care for those marginalised by society in Britain, and also in India and South Africa.
“Those formed in the tradition of the Oxford Movement cannot help but be moved to respond to Pope Benedict’s generous invitation to Anglicans. The sisters have always prayed for the unity of Christians with the See of Peter, now this is to become a reality for them by means of the ordinariate. We are truly grateful for their faith, courage, and resolve.”
In a statement Mother Winsome said: “We believe that the Holy Father’s offer is a prophetic gesture which brings to a happy conclusion the prayers of generations of Anglicans and Catholics who have sought a way forward for Christian unity. The future of our community is a fulfilment of its origins, and as part of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham we will continue with many of our customs and traditions, whilst also seeking to grow in Christ through our relationship with the wider Church.”


by Nirmala Carvalho
Titled Christaayan, it is the first movie about Christ situated in India and shot in Hindi. Directed by a Divine Verb priest, it involved more than 200 non-professional actors, 80 per cent non Christian. The six-hour epic will be broadcast as series on television.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - Christaayan, the first Hindi production about Jesus, has been presented to the public. Situated in India, it is inspired by the country's traditional culture.

The six-hour epic was produced by Satprakashan Sanchar Kendra in Indore for the Divine Verb Society and will be broadcast nation-wide as a TV series (for the trailer, click here).

Directed by Fr Geo George, the movie was shot over a seven-year period in several states, including Tamil Nadu, Goa and Kerala, with the participation of more than 200 actors, almost all amateurs.

The presentation was held at the Miriam School in Indore, a school for the mentally disabled.

According to Mgr Leo Cornelio, archbishop of Bhopal, movies like Christaayan "are a great inspiration" because "they do not look only at the Christian community, but at each member of society."

The movie presents actors dressed in saris of different colours within a context representative of the Indian tradition. What is more, 80 per cent of the actors are not Christian. For example, Ankit Sharma, who plays Jesus, is a Hindu.

For most of the actors, this is their first experience in front of the camera. They include Fr Jose Arayathel SVD, director of Mumbai's Urban Community Development Centre (UCDC), who plays Saint Andrew.

"In the movie, Jesus is concerned about the environment, defends the oppressed and gives lessons in optimism," he said.

"Being a part of the movie has renewed my commitment to mission," he explained, "because it focuses on the social, political and economic aspects that characterise the lives of the most marginalised groups of society, most notably women, youth and children."



Luke 1:
26 - 38

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,
27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.
28 And he came to her and said, "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!"
29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be.
30 And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.
32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,
33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end."
34 And Mary said to the angel, "How shall this be, since I have no husband?"
35 And the angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.
36 And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren.
37 For with God nothing will be impossible."
38 And Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.
Luke 1: 39 - 47
39 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah,
40 and she entered the house of Zechari'ah and greeted Elizabeth.
41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit
42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!
43 And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
44 For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy.
45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord."
46 And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,


Our Lady of Guadalupe
Feast: December 12

Feast Day:December 12

More on Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe

In the sixteenth century, the Blessed Virgin, moved with pity for the Aztec people who, living in the darkness of idolatry, offered to their idols multitudes of human victims, deigned to take into her own hands the evangelization of these Indians of Central America who were also her children. One of the Aztec gods, originally considered the god of fertility, had transformed himself over time into a ferocious god. A symbol of the sun, this god was in continuous battle with the moon and the stars and was believed to need human blood to restore his strength; if he died, life would be extinguished. Ever new victims, to be offered to him in perpetual sacrifice, therefore seemed essential.
An eagle on a cactus
Aztec priests had prophesied that their nomadic people would settle in the place where an eagle would be seen perched on a cactus, devouring a serpent. This eagle appears on the Mexican flag today. Having arrived on a swampy island, in the middle of Lake Texcoco, the Aztecs saw the foretold sign: an eagle, perched on a cactus, was devouring a serpent. This was in 1369. There they founded their town Tenochtitlan, which would become Mexico City. The town expanded to become a city on pilings, with many gardens abounding in flowers, fruit, and vegetables. The organization of the Aztec kingdom was very structured and hierarchical. The knowledge of their mathematicians, astronomers, philosophers, architects, doctors, artists, and artisans was excellent for that time. But the laws of the physical world remained scarcely known. Tenochtitlan drew its power and wealth primarily from war. The conquered cities had to pay a tribute of various foodstuffs and men for war and sacrifices. The Aztecs' human sacrifices and cannibalism are almost unequaled throughout the course of history.
In 1474, a child was born who was given the name Cuauhtlatoazin ("speaking eagle"). After his father's death, the child was taken in by his uncle. From the age of three, he was taught, as were all young Aztecs, to join in domestic tasks and to behave in a dignified manner. At school, he learned singing, dancing, and especially the worship of many gods. The priests had a very strong influence over the population, whom they kept in a submission bordering on terror. Cuauhtlatoazin was thirteen years old when the great temple at Tenochtitlan was consecrated. Over the course of four days, the priests sacrificed 80,000 human victims to their god. After his military service, Cuauhtlatoazin married a young woman of his social status. Together they led a modest life as farmers.
In 1519, the Spaniard Cortez disembarked in Mexico, leading 500 soldiers. He conquered the country for Spain, yet was not lacking in zeal for the evangelization of the Aztecs. In 1524 he obtained the arrival of twelve Franciscans to Mexico. These missionaries quickly integrated into the population. Their goodness contrasted with the harshness of the Aztec priests, as well as that of some conquistadors. They began to build churches. However, the Indians were reluctant to accept Baptism, primarily because it would require them to abandon polygamy.
Cuauhtlatoazin and his wife were among the first to receive Baptism, under the respective names of Juan Diego and Maria Lucia. After his wife's death in 1529, Juan Diego withdrew to Tolpetlac, 14 km from Mexico City, to the home of his uncle, Juan Bernardino, who had become a Christian as well. On December 9, 1531, as was his custom every Saturday, he left very early in the morning to attend the Mass celebrated in honor of the Blessed Virgin, at the Franciscan fathers' church, close to Mexico City. He walked past Tepeyac Hill. Suddenly, he heard a gentle and resounding song that seemed to come from a great multitude of birds. Raising his eyes to the top of the hill, he saw a white and radiant cloud. He looked around him and wondered if he was dreaming. All of a sudden, the song stopped and a woman's voice, gentle and graceful, called him: "Juanito, Juan Dieguito!" He quickly climbed the hill and found himself in the presence of a very beautiful young woman whose garments shone like the sun.

"A church where I will show my love"
Speaking to him in Nahuatl, his native language, she said to him, "Juanito, my son, where are you going?"—"Noble Lady, my Queen, I am going to the Mass in Mexico City to hear the divine things that the priest teaches us there."—"I want you to know for certain, my dear son, that I am the perfect and always Virgin MARY, Mother of the True God from Whom all life comes, the Lord of all things, Creator of Heaven and Earth. I greatly desire that a church be built in my honor, in which I will show my love, compassion, and protection. I am your Mother full of mercy and love for you and all those who love Me, trust in Me, and have recourse to Me. I will hear their complaints and I will comfort their affliction and their sufferings. So that I might show all My love, go now to the bishop in Mexico City and tell him that I am sending you to make known to him the great desire I have to see a church dedicated to me built here."
Juan Diego went straight to the bishop. Bishop Zumárraga, a Franciscan, the first bishop of Mexico, was a pious man and full of zeal, who had a heart overflowing with kindness towards the Indians. He heard the poor man attentively, but fearing an illusion, did not put much faith in his story. Towards evening, Juan Diego started on his way home. At the top of Tepeyac Hill, he had the pleasant surprise of meeting the Apparition again. He told her about his mission, then added, "I beg you to entrust your message to someone more known and respected so that he will believe it. I am only a simple Indian whom you have sent as a messenger to an important person. Therefore, he didn't believe me, and I do not want to greatly disappoint you."—"My dearest son, "replied the Lady, "you must understand that there are many more noble men to whom I could have entrusted my message and yet, it is because of you that my plan will succeed. Return to the bishop tomorrow... Tell him that it is I myself, the Blessed Virgin MARY, Mother of God, who am sending you."
On Sunday morning after the Mass, Juan Diego went to the bishop's house. The prelate asked him many questions, then asked for a tangible sign of the truth of the apparition. When Juan Diego went home, the bishop had him discreetly followed by two servants. At Tepeyac Bridge, Juan Diego disappeared from their sight, and despite all their searches on the hill and in the surrounding area, they could not find him again. Furious, they declared to the bishop that Juan Diego was an impostor who must absolutely not be believed. During this time, Juan Diego told the beautiful Lady, who was waiting for him on the hill, about his most recent meeting with the bishop. "Come back tomorrow morning to seek the sign he is asking for," replied the Apparition.
Roses, in the middle of winter!
Returning home, the Indian found his uncle ill, and the next day, he had to stay at his bedside to take care of him. As the illness got worse, the uncle asked his nephew to go look for a priest. At dawn on Tuesday, December 12, Juan Diego started on the road to the city. Approaching Tepeyac Hill, he thought it best to make a detour so as not to meet the Lady. But suddenly, he perceived her coming to meet him. Embarrassed, he explained his situation and promised to come back when he had found a priest to administer last rites to his uncle. "My dear little one," replied the Apparition, "do not be distressed about your uncle's illness, because he will not die from it. I assure you that he will get well... Go to the top of the hill, pick the flowers that you will see there, and bring them to me." When he had arrived at the top of the hill, the Indian was stunned to find a great number of flowers in bloom, Castillian roses that gave off a very sweet fragrance. Indeed, in the winter, the cold allows nothing to survive, and besides, the place was too dry for flowers to grow there. Juan Diego gathered the roses, enfolded them in his cloak, or tilma, then went back down the hill. "My dear son," said the Lady, "these flowers are the sign that you are to give the bishop... This will get him to build the church that I have asked of him."
Juan Diego ran to the bishop. When he arrived, the servants made him wait for hours. Amazed at his patience, and intrigued by what he was carrying in his tilma, they finally informed the bishop, who, although with several people, had him shown in immediately. The Indian related his adventure, unfolded his tilma, and let the flowers, which were still shining with dew, scatter to the floor. With tears in his eyes, Bishop Zumárraga fell to his knees, admiring the roses from his country. All of a sudden, he perceived, on the tilma, the portrait of Our Lady. MARY's image was there, as though printed on the cloak, very beautiful and full of gentleness. The bishop's doubts gave way to a sure faith and a hope filled with wonder. He took the tilma and the roses, and placed them respectfully in his private oratory. The next day he went with Juan Diego to the hill where the apparitions had taken place. After having examined the sites, he let the seer return to his uncle's house. Juan Bernardino had been completely cured. His cure had taken place at the very hour when Our Lady appeared to his nephew. He told him, "I have also seen her. She even came here and talked to me. She wants a church to be built on Tepeyac Hill and wants her portrait to be called 'Saint MARY of Guadalupe.' But she didn't explain to me why." The name "Guadalupe" is well known by the Spanish, because in their country there is a very old sanctuary dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The news of the miracle spread quickly. In a short time, Juan Diego became well-known. "I will spread your fame," MARY had told him, but the Indian remained as humble as ever. To make it easier to meditate on the Image, Bishop Zumárraga had the tilma transported to his cathedral. Then work was begun on the construction of a small church and a hermitage for Juan Diego on the hill of apparitions. The next December 25, the bishop consecrated his cathedral to the Most Blessed Virgin, to thank her for the remarkable favors with which she had blessed his diocese. Then, in a magnificent procession, the miraculous Image was carried to the sanctuary that had just been completed on Tepeyac Hill. To express their joy, the Indians shot arrows. One of them, shot carelessly, went through the throat of a participant in the procession, who fell to the ground, fatally wounded. A great silence fell and intense supplication rose to the Mother of God. Suddenly the wounded man, who had been placed at the foot of the miraculous Image, collected himself and got up, full of vigor. The crowd's enthusiasm was at its peak.

Millions of Indians become Christian
Juan Diego moved into his little hermitage, seeing to the maintenance and cleaning of the site. His life remained simple—he carefully farmed a field close to the sanctuary that had been placed at his disposal. He received pilgrims in ever larger numbers, and enjoyed talking about the Blessed Virgin and untiringly relating the details of the apparitions. He was entrusted with all kinds of prayer intentions. He listened, sympathized, and comforted. A good amount of his free time was spent in contemplation before the image of his Lady. He made rapid progress in the ways of holiness. Day after day, he fulfilled his duty as a witness up until his death on December 9, 1548, seventeen years after the first apparition.
When the Indians had learned the news of Our Lady's apparitions, an enthusiasm and joy such as had never been seen before spread among them. Renouncing their idols, superstitions, human sacrifices, and polygamy, many asked to be baptized. Nine years after the apparitions, nine million Indians had converted to the Christian faith—nearly 3,000 a day! The details of the Image of MARY moved the Indians deeply—this woman is greater than the sun-god since she appears standing before the sun. She surpasses the moon god since she keeps the moon under her feet. She is no longer of this world since she is surrounded by clouds and is held above the world by an angel. Her folded hands show her in prayer, which means that there is Someone greater than she...
Even in our time, the mystery of this miraculous Image remains. The tilma, a large apron woven by hand from cactus fibers, bears the holy Image, which is 1.43 meters tall. The Virgin's face is perfectly oval and is a gray color verging on pink. Her eyes have a profound expression of purity and gentleness. The mouth seems to smile. The very beautiful face, similar to that of a mestizo Indian, is framed by a black head of hair that, up close, is comprised of silky locks. She is clad in a full tunic, of a pinkish red hue that no one has ever been able to reproduce, and that goes to her feet. Her bluish-green mantle is edged with gold braid and studded with stars. A sun of various shades forms a magnificent background, with golden rays shining out.
The fact that the tilma has remained perfectly preserved from 1531 to this day is inexplicable. After more than four centuries, this fabric of mediocre quality retains the same freshness and the same lively color as when it was new. By comparison, a copy of the Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe painted in the 18th century with great care, and preserved under the same climatic conditions as Juan Diego's, had completely deteriorated in a few years.
At the beginning of the 20th century, a painful period of revolutions in Mexico, a load of dynamite was put by unbelievers at the foot of the Image, in a vase of flowers. The explosion destroyed the marble steps on the main altar, the candelabras, all the flower-holders. The marble altarpiece was broken into pieces, the brass Christ on the tabernacle was split in two. The windows in most of the houses near the basilica were broken, but the pane of glass that was protecting the Image was not even cracked. The Image remained intact.
The most moving experience of my life
In 1936, an examination conducted on two fibers from the tilma, one red and the other yellow, led to an astounding finding—the fibers contained no known coloring agent. Ophthalmology and optics confirm the inexplicable nature of the Image—it seems to be a slide projected onto the fabric. Closer analysis shows that there is no trace of drawing or sketching under the color, even though perfectly recognizable retouches were done on the original, retouches which moreover have deteriorated with time. In addition, the background never received any primer, which seems inexplicable if it is truly a painting, for even on the finest fabric, a coat is always applied, if only to prevent the fabric from absorbing the painting and the threads from breaking the surface. No brush strokes can be detected. After an infrared analysis conducted on May 7, 1979, a professor from NASA wrote, "There is no way to explain the quality of the pigments used for the pink dress, the blue veil, the face and the hands, or the permanence of the colors, or the vividness of the colors after several centuries, during which they ordinarily should have deteriorated... Studying this Image has been the most moving experience of my life."
Astronomers have observed that all the constellations present in the heavens at the moment Juan Diego opened his tilma before Bishop Zumárraga on December 12, 1531, are in their proper place on MARY's mantle. It has also been found that by imposing a topographical map of central Mexico on the Virgin's dress, the mountains, rivers and principal lakes coincide with the decoration on this dress.
Ophthalmological tests have found that MARY's eye is a human eye that appears to be living, and includes the retina, in which is reflected the image of a man with outstretched hands—Juan Diego. The image in the eye conforms to the known laws of optics, particularly to that which states that a well-lighted object can be reflected three times in an eye (Purkinje-Samson's law). A later study allowed researchers to discover in the eye, in addition to the seer, Bishop Zumárraga and several other people present when the image of Our Lady appeared on the tilma. And the normal microscopic network of veins in the eyelids and the cornea of the Virgin's eyes is completely recognizable. No human painter would have been able to reproduce such details.
Three months pregnant
Gynecological measurements have determined that the Virgin in the Image has the physical dimensions of a woman who is three months pregnant. Under the belt that holds the dress in place, at the very location of the embryo, a flower with four petals stands out—the Solar Flower, the most familiar of Aztec hieroglyphs, and which symbolized for them divinity, the center of the earth, heaven, time, and space. On the Virgin's neck hangs a brooch, the center of which is decorated with a little cross, recalling the death of Christ on the Cross for the salvation of all mankind. Many other details of the Image of MARY form an extraordinary document for our age, which is able to observe them thanks to modern technology. Thus science, which has often been a pretext for unbelief, helps us today to give prominence to signs that had remained unknown for centuries and that science is unable to explain.
The Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe bears a message of evangelization: the Basilica of Mexico is a center "from which flows a river of the light of the Gospel of Christ, spreading throughout the earth through the merciful Image of MARY" (John Paul II, December 12, 1981 ). In addition, through her intervention on behalf of the Aztec people, the Virgin played a role in saving innumerable human lives, and her pregnancy can be interpreted as a special appeal on behalf of unborn children and the defense of human life. This appeal has a burning relevance in our time, when threats against the lives of individuals and peoples, especially lives that are weak and defenseless, are widespread and becoming more serious. The Second Vatican Council forcefully deplored crimes against human life: "All offenses against life itself, such as murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia... all these and the like are criminal: they poison civilization ; and they debase the perpetrators more than the victims and militate against the honor of the Creator" ( Gaudium et Spes, 27). Faced with these plagues, which are expanding as a result of scientific progress and technology, and which benefit from wide social consensus as well as legal recognition, let us call upon MARY with confidence. She is an "incomparable model of how life should be welcomed and cared for... Showing us her Son, she assures us that in Him the forces of death have already been defeated" (John Paul II, Evangelium vitae, March 25, 1995, nos. 102, 105). "Death and life are locked in an incredible battle; the Author of life, having died, lives and reigns" (Easter Sequence).