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Pope canonises American Indian saint

In a ceremony mixing Indian and European traditions, Pope John Paul II canonised the Church's first Indian saint yesterday, calling Juan Diego a catalyst for converting the Americas to Christianity.

The pope appealed to all Mexicans to help Indians rise from poverty and subjugation.

Hundreds of thousands of jubilant faithful lined the streets, singing, cheering and sobbing as they waved yellow-and-white flags. Some watched the ceremony on large screens mounted in the street, and leapt in excitement as Juan Diego was proclaimed a saint. Most caught only a quick glimpse of the pope as he passed by, but that was enough.

Inside the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe, dancers dressed in feathered Aztec costumes shook rattles and blew into conch shells as the image of the new saint was carried to the altar. Priests read from the Bible in Spanish and in Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs.

The pope said Juan Diego, to whom the Virgin appeared in 1531, was instrumental in the conversion of millions in the Americas to the Catholic faith.

``Christ's message, through his mother, took up the central elements of indigenous culture, purified them and gave them the definitive sense of salvation,'' he said. ``...He facilitated the fruitful meeting of two worlds and became the catalyst for a new Mexican identity.''

For the second day in a row, the Holy Father appealed for better treatment for Indians in the Americas. He asked Mexicans to help create ``greater justice and solidarity'' for all, and to ``support the indigenous peoples in their legitimate aspirations, respecting and defending the authentic values of each ethnic group.''

``Mexico needs its indigenous peoples and these peoples need Mexico,'' he said.

Canonisation of Juan Diego (EWTN)


32 Aug 2002