Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City anticipates record number of pilgrims

After two years of restrictions due to the pandemic, pilgrimages to reach the feet of the Virgin of Guadalupe on Tepeyac Hill might hit an all-time record this year, officials with the Catholic Church noted this week.

Every year from Dec. 9 to 12 — except in 2020 and 2021 — millions of faithful from all over Mexico travel to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which stands on Tepeyac Hill (Cerro Tepeyac) north of Mexico City.

Some pilgrims travel hundreds if not more than 1,000 miles to make it there. As many as 8 million visitors have participated in the tradition in a single year, according to the Catholic weekly Desde la Fe. And this year, on the 491st anniversary of Saint Juan Diego’s vision of the Virgin Mary (known in Mexico as Guadalupe) in 1531, the total could soar even higher.

“The celebrations for the ‘Morenita of Tepeyac’ this year will finally take place with the normality with which they had been done for generations until the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced the ecclesiastical and civil authorities to take restrictive measures in favor of the citizenry,” said an editorial in Desde la Fe headlined “Bienvenidos, peregrinos” (Welcome, pilgrims).

Virgin of Guadalupe altarpiece at her basilica in Mexico City
The altarpiece of the Virgin of Guadalupe at her basilica in Mexico City. (Photo: Google Art Project)

Many pilgrimages are already underway, and others are preparing.

“What is a fact is that the pilgrims have been waiting impatiently for this moment,” the editorial continued, “and they will not miss the opportunity to get going again to bring their prayers, supplications and thanks to the Virgin of Guadalupe to her sacred house.”

If the number of pilgrims at the basilica near Mexico City mirrors the record-breaking numbers in October in Jalisco — for the annual, 9-kilometer procession from the Guadalajara Cathedral to the Basilica of Our Lady of Zapopan — “we could have a historical record of visitors to Tepeyac,” the editorial concluded.

That being the case, the Archdiocese of Mexico is calling on motorists to drive responsibly and asking pilgrims to take necessary precautions in order to reach their destination safely. The Church also wants citizens to be respectful of the pilgrims, for example, when they are crossing the street in large groups.

Visitors to the Guadalupe Basilica in Mexico City
The faithful receiving communion outside the basilica in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: Creative Commons)

Desde la Fe published a “Pilgrim’s Kit,” which included tips such as consult your doctor before any major physical undertaking, bring a sleeping bag if you plan to sleep in the church and wear a reflective vest so you can be spotted easily on roadways.

Dec. 12 is Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe, the day on which Juan Diego’s final vision of the Virgin Mary was recorded. Though schools and most businesses will be closed, the day of honor for Mexico’s patron saint is not a federal holiday.

But it is a religious feast day with many associated activities. Many children dress in traditional costumes (many as Saint Juan Diego) and are blessed when they attend Mass, which the Church holds as obligatory for all Catholics on that day.

There are 132 temples in Mexico City alone dedicated to Guadalupe, as well as 74 in Guadalajara and 32 in Morelia, Michoacán — and 81 dedicated to Guadalupe (as well as three to Saint Juan Diego) in the municipality of Tlalnepantla de Baz (population 672,000) in México state. And Guadalupe is only one of many invocations of the Virgin Mary throughout Mexico with temples of their own. 

This short video gives you some glimpses inside the basilica and also what the plaza looks like packed with the faithful.

The Basilica of Guadalupe’s rector, Monsignor Salvador Martínez, is asking those who enter, especially on the busiest days of Dec. 11 and 12, to use face masks to avoid a resurgence in COVID-19 infections.

“As Pope Francis points out,” Martínez said, “the time has come to infect us — not with some virus, but with love, empathy, respect and enthusiasm.”

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