By Justin McLellan, Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Our Lady of Guadalupe is a message of “mestizaje,” or a fusion of cultures that leads to an encounter between humanity and God, Pope Francis said.
In a message to Archbishop Francisco Cerro Chaves of Toledo, Spain, Pope Francis reflected on the figure of Guadalupe to mark the occasion of the shrines of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico and in Spain becoming “sister shrines.”
“Mary, our mother, is always a bond of communion for her people,” and her invitation to prayer and communion “has been expressed in many places in the world with the invitation to build a temple that would be a house with doors always open to all,” the pope said in his message, which was published Feb. 13.
Two of the most famous temples in Hispanic culture built at Mary’s request are the Guadalupe shrines in Spain and Mexico which are considered “sister shrines” following a ceremony in Guadalupe, Spain, Feb. 13 in which Archbishop Cerro and Cardinal Carlos Aguiar Retes, archbishop of Mexico City, Mexico, both participated.
The royal monastery of St. Mary of Guadalupe in Spain was constructed in the 14th century on the site where tradition holds that Mary appeared to a farmer who discovered a dark-skinned statue of Mary. Many Spanish conquistadors who traveled to the New World came from the area around Guadalupe and had a strong devotion to the Marian figure.
The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City houses St. Juan Diego’s tilma, the mantle that bears the miraculous image of Mary who appeared to the Indigenous saint and spoke to him in Nahuatl, an Aztec language. An estimated 12 million people visited the basilica each year before the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, making it Catholicism’s most popular Marian shrine.
In his message to Archbishop Cerro, Pope Francis said the origin of the word “Guadalupe” is not entirely known, and its roots have been traced to Arabic, Latin or Nahuatl. He noted that while this could be interpreted as a conflict, it can also “be read as a sign from the Holy Spirit who makes his message of love heard in every language.”
The pope then traced how the different linguistic interpretations of “Guadalupe” combine to produce new meanings: in Arabic it means “hidden river,” which refers to grace; its Latin origins could mean “river of wolves,” referring to a “haven of peace for those troubled by their own sins” and violence; and the Nahuatl roots would mean “the one who conquers the serpent.”
The Gospel, while remaining the same, is “enriched in meaning” in every historical moment and by every culture it encounters, the pope said.