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POPE JOHN PAUL II  CELEBRATES SOLEMN MASS AT BASILICA

 MEXICO CITY  (Jan 23, 1999) - EWTNews - Pope John Paul II  celebrated   Solemn Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City on Saturday, January 23, 1999. The Virgin of Guadalupe is believed to have miraculously appeared to Juan Diego, a now-beatified Aztec Indian, on a hillside in 1531 near where the basilica now stands.

On December 9, 1531, the Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego on Tepeyac Hill in Mexico. To ensure that this visit from the Mother of God was authentic the Bishop asked for castillian roses, roses only found in Spain as a sign that the visits were of God. Our Lady presented Juan Diego with these castillian roses which she placed in his tilma (or coat). As Juan Diego presented these roses to the local Bishop and beautiful image of the Virgin Mary appeared on his tilma. This image which has not changed in over 400 years currently hangs in t he Basilica in Mexico City.

click to see larger imageThe Holy Father arrived on Friday, January 22, 1999 to an exuberant crowd at the Benito Jarez Airport in Mexico City. "I greet the entire Mexican people, this noble and beloved people which works, prays and walks in the search for a better future," said the Pontiff. click to see larger image

This Solemn Mass is the first since the Holy Father’s arrival to the Americas. Pope John Paul II has visited Mexico on three other occasions. At the basilica, the Pope will discuss the results of a Synod on the Americas held at the Vatican in 1997 before Cardinals and Bishops from North, Central and South America. The Synod discussed ways discuss which are impacting the Church at the close of the Third Millennium, including justice, poverty, and the economic debts of countries in the Americas. "At the end of a millennium that has been fruitful and tormented, I will ask our Lady of Guadalupe that the next millennium in Mexico, in America and in the whole world will open up paths of fraternity and peace," he said.

  During the motorcade in the winnegabagon-looking bus, church bells rang and millions of people lined the streets to get a glimpse and a blessing from the 78 year old Vicar of Christ.

Pope John Paul concluded the evening by receiving the keys to the city, once the capital of the Aztec Empire before the Spanish conquest.

CROWDS IN MEXICO

M E X I C O  C I T Y,  Jan. 23 (EWTNews) — Saturday, January 23, 1999, Thousands gather to greet Pope John Paul II at Benito Jarez International Aiport in Mexico City on Friday. On hand Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo and his wife greeted the Holy Father.   

The crowds of thousands waved flags, mariachi bands played, and people chanted in Spanish, "John Paul II, all the world loves you! Viva al Papa" Children shouted, "El Papa, El Papa, Rah, Rah, Rah!" as the Holy Father descended down the steps off of Shepherd I. The President and his wife, Nilda Patricia, escorted the Pope along a red carpet as he approached the speaking platform. click to see larger image

"United we Mexicans greet you with joy and hope," Zedillo said. "We receive you with our hearts in our hands." The Pope responded: "It is for me the cause of enormous joy to find myself again in this blessed land." "I feel a joy that I’ve never felt before," said Beatriz Jamaica, a 45-year-old housewife in the crowd in the center of the city. "Everyone’s very excited that he’s here again."    

Mexico is very dear to the heart of the Holy Father. After the long flight from Rome, the Pope said he felt he owed a special debt of gratitude to the Mexican people. ``I greet the entire Mexican people, this noble and beloved people which works, prays and walks in the search for a better future,'' he said. The Pope has made three previous trips to this country.  
 "The church wants to reveal the best of its identity: to be closer to Christ and his word, to be a better servant of man . . . to be an agent of unity and not the division of humanity," he declared before riding his popemobile into the city past hundreds of thousands of adoring Mexicans.

Some faithful waited for days to see El Papa, staking out spots along his route. At one point in the city center, the crowd surged past a blockade of volunteers, almost shutting the street before motorcycle police pushed them back.

During the flight from Rome, the Pope was asked by reporters about the standoff in the Mexican state of Chiapas, which has been given by violence since Zapatista guerrillas launched an uprising four years ago to press for Indian rights.

``The indigenous people were the first owners of the land. There will be no solution until we recognize that the indigenous people were the first owners of the land ... The solution must be through dialogue,'' Pope John Paul II stated.

 Upon arrival at the Nunciate, where the Pope is staying during his visit to Mexico, he signed the policy declaration. A small group of cardinals applauded.

The text wasn't released on Friday, but it was expected to address the increasing presence of Protestants in Latin America and reinforce the Pope's positions against abortion, birth control and the death penalty.

Pope John Paul II said the document should help the Church ``be the seed of unity and not the cause of division of humanity.''

 At a downtown museum, Mayor Cuauhtemoc Cardenas handed the Pope the keys to the city on Friday. It was the first time the Pope received that honor because Mexico's constitution was largely anti-clerical until 1992, despite the faith of its people. During earlier trips, he was technically breaking the law by appearing in public in his religious robes

Church officials also have said the document was expected to condemn the devastating effects of foreign debt on poor countries and an increasingly global market economy that the Pope sees as a threat to people’s dignity. The Pontiff has called for the debt to be forgiven or at least substantially reduced by 2000.

Those Seeking a Papal Blessing

Dozens of faithful were already waiting at the Basilica as the Pope’s airplane, Shepherd I touched down on Friday. Carlos Ramirez took his two little boys — ages 8 and 4 — on a six-hour pilgrimage through the streets of Mexico City carrying a 7-foot crucifix and a statue of the Virgin Mary.

     "I want to receive the blessing of the pope," he said. "I brought my sons so they will follow the right path."

     The pilgrims arrived at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe as a remarkably smog-free dawn broke over the city. Ramirez’s sons collapsed on the sidewalk. Ramirez covered them in blankets and lit a charcoal fire to keep them warm.

     In addition to Saturday’s Mass, the Holy Father is to celebrate Mass at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez Racetrack on Sunday and hold a music-filled celebration at Mexico’s biggest soccer stadium, Estadio Azteca on Monday.

     On Tuesday, he heads to the United States and will meet with President Clinton in St. Louis. The Vatican has serious differences with the Clinton administration, particularly over the airstrikes against Iraq, its economic embargo of Cuba and support for abortion rights.

     The Pope said the biggest change since he first visited the United States 20 years ago was the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Soviet Union, leaving the United States as the only superpower.

     "I don’t know if it’s a good or a bad thing," he said. "That’s the way it is."

     It was the 85th trip for the Pontiff, who says he is in the "sunset" of his life.  But in an airborne news conference Friday, the Pope insisted he’s still enthusiastic about travel and hinted he would like to visit Russia and China.

In August ’98 at World Youth Day in Paris, France Pope John Paul II asked millions of youth to pray that the Lord would allow him to see the Third Millennium. As many analysts have stated disaster and economic collapse, the Holy Father has stated that Christians should prepare for New Springtime which is to come with the Third Millennium.