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Mexicans hoping for go-ahead for Juan Diego canonisation

The Pope is due to make an announcement tomorrow on the suitability for canonisation of Juan Diego, an Indian peasant to whom the Virgin of Guadalupe is believed to have appeared in 1531.

As pilgrims flooded earlier this month into the basilica in Mexico City built beneath the hill where she is believed to have appeared, a banner hung in the interior of the basilica was urging 'rapid canonisation' for Juan Diego.

Although some say there is no proof Diego ever existed, the local press, backed by Church experts, is already convinced the Pope will approve the miracle and all that is left to determine is the date of the ceremony.

Cultural commentator Carlos Monsivaís explained the significance of Our Lady of Guadalupe: "Without her, we would just be Catholics. With her, we are Mexican Catholics. The Virgin of Guadalupe is more important than God or even Christ, and her festival is more important religiously than either Christmas or Easter." The story of Diego dates from the earliest Catholic missionaries who arrived in Mexico in 1523, two years after the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan fell to Hernán Cortés and his conquistadors. The Franciscan brothers studied native languages, customs and religious practices. Diego was among their converts.