VATICAN CITY — The iconic image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which has become a cultural and spiritual symbol for Latin America, cannot be used to promote any kind of ideology, but must maintain its message of simple love, Pope Francis said.
The Marian image that appeared on the cloak of St. Juan Diego “frees us from so many social and political ideologies that so often use this ‘Guadalupan’ reality to base themselves in, to justify themselves and to earn money,” he said Dec. 12 during Mass on the feast of our Lady of Guadalupe.
“The message of Guadalupe does not tolerate any ideology of any kind,” he said at the Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, without specifying any ideology in particular.
The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, which displays the cloak on which Mary’s image appeared, draws some 20 million pilgrims each year.
The pope said the Marian image “remains impressed on the simplicity of who we are and what we have, which is of little value, but which will become something great in God’s eyes.”
Spanish-speakers filled St. Peter’s Basilica for the papal Mass. Many wore shawls or scarves with an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe and others brought framed portraits of the image to be blessed.
U.S.-born Cardinal Robert Prevost, prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops and president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, was the main celebrant at the altar.
In his homily, the pope highlighted part of the story of St. Juan Diego, who Mary asked to pick roses during winter to show to the local bishop as a sign of her appearance.
Flowers “signify that the virtues which the Lord instills in the heart are not our own work,” he said. “The act of collecting them reveals to us that God wants us to accept that gift, that we ‘perfume’ our weak reality with good works, driving out hatred and fears.”
Although he spoke without any sign of difficulty, Pope Francis skipped much of his prepared text. He recently canceled a trip to the United Arab Emirates due to a bronchial infection, and aides read his speeches on his behalf several times in the past week.
The pope recalled the words which Mary spoke to St. Juan Diego during one of her apparitions to him: “Am I not here, I, who am your mother?”
He said that Mary’s presence is “permanently impressed” in the lives of Christians just as on the cloak St. Juan Diego, “perfumed by virtues gathered in a world that seems incapable of producing them.”
“Virtues,” he said, “that fill our poverty in the simplicity of small acts of love, that illuminate our cloak, without us knowing it, with the image of a church that carries Christ in its womb.”
To end Mass, the choirs of the Pontifical Mexican College and the Pontifical Latin American College, joined by the thousands in the basilica, sang “La Guadalupana,” a celebratory song that tells of the special bond between Our Lady of Guadalupe and the people of Mexico.