BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Spanish Portuguese Caribbean
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Americas  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS
Wednesday, 31 July, 2002, 21:56 GMT 22:56 UK
Mexicans euphoric at new saint
Pope celebrates mass in Mexico City
Plumed Indian dancers joined in the service
Pope John Paul II has canonised Mexico's first indigenous saint, Juan Diego, in a celebratory mass watched by a jubilant crowd of thousands.

Almost 500 years ago Juan Diego, an Indian peasant, is said to have witnessed an apparition of a dark-skinned Madonna - the Virgin of Guadalupe - who is Mexico's patron saint.


It is particularly necessary today to support indigenous people in their legitimate aspirations, respecting and defending the authentic values of each ethnic group

Pope John Paul II
Hundreds of thousands of cheering and singing people lined the streets of Mexico City, to catch a glimpse of the Pope as he made his way to the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe, where the mass took place.

As the Pope was driving back from the service a teenager fired an air rifle at one of the police officers lining the route, but officials stressed the pontiff was not in the vicinity at the time.

In Mexico, the Church has lost millions of followers in recent years to Protestant evangelical groups in the largely indigenous south of Mexico, and Catholics hope Juan Diego's sainthood will halt that decline.

Traditional music

Indians dressed in plumed headdresses danced up the central aisle of the basilica as the Pope declared Juan Diego a saint.

Three men in indigenous costumes blew conch shells and the entire congregation shook maracas.

Crowds watch the Pope's cavalcade
Onlookers jostled for positions

Only 22,000 people fit into the basilica, but those lucky enough to get a ticket packed the church building and forecourt.

During the service, the Pope called upon all to respect the rights and cultures of the original inhabitants of the Americas.

"It is particularly necessary today to support indigenous people in their legitimate aspirations, respecting and defending the authentic values of each ethnic group," he said in his homily.

"Mexico needs its indigenous people and the indigenous people need Mexico," he added.

Shots fired

Mexicans have a special affection for John Paul II, who went to the country on the first foreign trip of his papacy.

And hundreds of thousands turned out to see the pontiff in the streets of the capital, decorated with papal flags and yellow and white balloons.

Onlookers climbed trees and rooftops to get a view of the Pope, who waved through bullet-proof glass, which was partially lowered to allow them to get a better view.

As the Pope returned from the basilica a teen-ager fired an air rifle at one of the policemen guarding the Pope's route.

But Federal Preventative Police spokesman Oscar Hernandez stressed that the Pope was not in the vicinity when the shots were fired.

The officer was hit but not seriously wounded, and the youth was arrested, Mr Hernandez said.

Mexican waves

There was a euphoric atmosphere, which the BBC's correspondent in Mexico City, Nick Miles, said was akin to that at a pop concert.

The crowds even participated in Mexican waves as they waited for the pontiff to pass.

Millions were expected to take the day off work to watch the service on television.

But the visit has reopened the debate in Mexico over the existence of Juan Diego and the Virgin of Guadalupe herself.

Non-believers say the apparition was invented by the conquering Spaniards to convert the indigenous population to Catholicism.

Mexico is the final leg of an 11-day papal tour of the Americas.

The travels seem to be taking their toll on the frail 82-year-old Pope, who is suffering from Parkinson's disease and arthritis.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Robert Piggott
"Juan Diego's following includes Mexicans of all backgrounds and that makes him a powerful symbol of unity"
See also:

31 Jul 02 | Americas
31 Jul 02 | Americas
09 Jul 02 | Americas
30 Jul 02 | Americas
26 Jul 02 | Americas
01 Jul 02 | Europe
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Americas stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Americas stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes