Backgrounder – 2012 Papal Visit to Mexico and Cuba 

by Kevin Wandra Friday, March 16, 2012

For More Information:
Alexis Walkenstein, 561-445-5409 or;
Tim Lilley, 678-990-9032 or;
Kevin Wandra, 678-990-9032, or

ATLANTA – MARCH 16, 2012 – Following are some notes regarding significant events and landmarks that will be part of Pope Benedict XVI’s March 23-29 trip to Mexico and Cuba.

March 24 – Peace Square, Guanajuato, Mexico
The Pope will greet and speak to children at 6:45 p.m. local time in Guanajuato’s Peace Square, which is adjacent to the basilica of Our Lady of Guanajuato. The statue of the Blessed Mother there was given to residents of then-New Spain in the mid 1500s by Spain’s King Phillip II. Historic accounts report that the statue, originally in Granada, Spain, was hidden in a damp cave when the Moors invaded Spain in the early 700s. It remained there for more than 850 years without suffering any damage or deterioration – and has been the image of the Patroness of Guanajuato for more than 450 years. Our Lady of Guanajuato has been credited with numerous miracles since arriving in central Mexico in the 16th century.

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March 25 – Bicentennial Park, Silao/Leon, Mexico
Beginning at 10 a.m. on March 25, the Holy Father will celebrate Mass for 400,000+ in Bicentennial Park – at the foot of Cerro del Cubilete (Beaker Hill), atop which is the statue of Cristo Rey (Christ the King), a tribute to the martyrs of the Cristero War. The Holy Father will fly over the statue as he arrives March 23 in Guanajuato. The Cristero War (1926-29) – was a grassroots rebellion against the administration of Plucarto Elias Calles, who sought to restrict – if not eliminate – Catholicism from the country. The martyrs of the Cristero War are featured in an epic new action film, For Greater Glory (also known outside the U.S. as Cristiada), which opens in the U.S. June 1. On Nov. 20, 2005 – Christ the King Sunday – more than a dozen Cristero martyrs were beatified – including Blessed José Sanchez del Rio, who died at age 14.

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March 26 and 27 – Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
Shortly after his mid-afternoon arrival in the island country, Pope Benedict XVI will offer Mass to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre – the patroness of Cuba. Mass will begin at 5:30 p.m. in Antonio Maceo Revolution Square. The next morning, the Holy Father will visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre. Accounts report that native Indians Rodrigo and Juan de Hoyos, and Juan Mareno, a 10-year-old slave boy, were gathering salt near the coastline (in the Bay of Nipe) in the early 1600s when they found, bobbing in the water after a strong storm, a small statue of the Virgin Mary holding her child in her right arm, and with a gold cross in her left hand. The statue floated on a board bearing the inscription, Yo soy la Virgen de la Caridad, "I am the Virgin of Charity." Witnesses provided sworn testimony, that despite being found floating in the bay after an intense storm, neither the figure nor her clothing was wet. The statue spent several years in smaller shrines before being permanently housed, beginning in 1630, in what is now the basilica in El Cobre – Cuba’s only basilica. The last Pope Benedict – Benedict XV – visited the shrine in 1916 and declared the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre the Patroness of Cuba. Pope Paul VI elevated the church where the statue is kept to the status of basilica in 1977.

The Virgin of Charity of El Cobre has been credited with countless miracles; and the great author Ernest Hemingway reportedly gave/dedicated his Nobel Prize for Literature (which he won for The Old Man and the Sea, which he wrote in Havana) to the Virgin of Charity. During his historic 1998 visit to Cuba, Blessed Pope John Paul II crowned her statue.

News reports also speculate that Benedict XVI may use the occasion of his visit to Cuba – the first Papal visit since Blessed Pope John Paul II visited in 1998 – to formally recognize the elevation of Cuban priest Fr. Felix Varela from Servant of God to Venerable. Fr. Varela is recognized as playing a primary role in developing Cuban culture, and for his virtue and patriotism.

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Comments about the Papal visit

Mexico – “For us, the Pope is Christ’s representative,” Mexican Fr. Javier Yael Cebada told the international news organization Zenit, “and we are very happy and moved by his visit to Mexico. We are a happy people who are joyful to receive their pastor.” Fr. Yael, of the Diocese of Orizaba in Veracruz, is studying dogmatic theology at the Pontifical Mexican College of Rome.

Cuba – Jaime Cardinal Ortega – in a rare appearance on Cuban television – called the Holy Father’s visit to the island country a pilgrimage “because the Pope is determined to revive the faith in countries that were Christianized before but need new evangelization, and he saw in this mission a true example of what it is to revive the faith of a people.”

The Maximus Group, LLC – The Maximus Group, a Catholic communications agency, provides the news media with information and access to reliable, informed, unbiased sources who can participate in intelligent discussions on topics that include a relevant and sometimes entertaining perspective from the Catholic space. For more information, please contact Alexis Walkenstein (561-445-5409 or, Tim Lilley (678-990-9032 or or Kevin Wandra (678-990-9032, or


0    submitted by Kevin Wandra
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