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Church renegs on deal to sell commercial rights to Guadalupe virgin

The Archdiocese of Mexico City has announced it has terminated a deal to give an American company commercial rights to the official image of La Virgen de Guadalupe for five years for $A21.75 million.

"For the tranquility of Catholics, the sacred image of the Virgen of Guadalupe is simply not for sale," Monsignor Diego Monroy said in a statement intended to squelch a growing scandal. "The sacred image of the Virgen of Guadalupe is the property of all Mexicans."

It doesn't take much to fan emotions among the millions of faithful who each year visit the spot near where the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared more than 500 years ago to an Aztec peasant now known as St. Juan Diego.

News that the archdiocese negotiated the Guadalupe contract last year had many in Mexico City shaking their heads last week.

"No one has a right to sell our faith," said Yolanda Martinez Solano, 46, whose family has sold religious trinkets for four generations outside the Basilica de Guadalupe, built where the Virgin is said to have appeared.

The trouble began Feb. 9, when Proceso, a leading weekly political magazine, reported that church officials in March 2002 sold the commercial rights to the Virgin's image that appears on Juan Diego's cloak.

The reported deal would have given exclusive image rights to Viotran, a Florida company that handles wire transfers immigrants use to send money home. The deal included the official church portrait of Juan Diego, unveiled for Pope John Paul II's visit to Mexico to canonise him last year.

San Francisco Chronicle

Mexico: there is no commerce with Our Lady of Guadalupe - Clarification made by the Mexican Archbishopry (Zenit Spanish edition)
Arzobispado de México Dirección de Comunicación Social | Translation
Papal Visit to Mexico City 2002
Mexican bishops hope papal visit leads to new rights for indigenous (17/7/02)
Hundreds flock to see Virgin Mary statue weep in Bangladesh (Ananova)
[Australian Sceptics Association dismisses] weeping statue (ABC)
Weeping Mary withdrawn from church display (18/2/03)

19 Feb 2003