The Popes and Our Lady of Guadalupe

(Fall, 2006)

By Sr. Mary Agatha, CMRI

The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is a dear and familiar one to many Catholics today, but especially to those living in the Americas. It is most fitting, moreover, that her feast should fall in the month of December, because this miraculous image, which brings our Blessed Mother so clearly before us in such a unique way, reflects both the Divine Maternity of the Blessed Virgin and her Immaculate Conception. The dark sash around her waist was recognized as that once commonly worn by expectant mothers. Moreover, scientists who have studied the image have determined that it is indeed the portrait of a woman who is expecting.

The name Guadalupe actually is the result of a misunderstanding of what Our Lady said to Juan Diego. The Spanish- speaking Bishop Zumarraga thought that the Indian had told him “Guadalupe,” the name of a famous shrine in Spain. But our Blessed Mother had identified herself as “Tecoatlaxopeuh,” which translates roughly to “she who crushes the serpent’s head.” While the Aztecs recognized in this the feathered serpent god, it also brings strongly to mind the passage in Genesis: “…I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed; she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel” (Gen. 3:15). Elsewhere in the message of Guadalupe, the Virgin of the tilma is identified as “izcanquizca,” an Aztec word meaning, “entirely perfect, without blemish.” 

“Hear me, my dear little son, and let it penetrate into your heart: Let nothing discourage or frighten you, let nothing weigh you down. Let nothing alter your heart or your countenance. Do not fear any illness or vexation, anxiety or pain. Am I not here, who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Are you not in the folds of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else that you need?”
Words of Our Lady of Guadalupe to Juan Diego

More than half of the Popes who have reigned since the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was revealed have issued decrees concerning it. 

• The earliest record is found in the decree of Pope Gregory XIII of 1575, which granted an extension of indulgences previously granted by the Holy See to the shrine at Guadalupe.

• In 1725 Pope Benedict XIII granted a plenary indulgence to all visitors to the church of Guadalupe, which he raised to the status of a collegiate.  

• In 1754 the Sacred Congregation of Rites issued a decree approving the Office and Mass for Our Lady of Guadalupe.

• Also in 1754, Pope Benedict XIV issued a bull approving Our Lady of Guadalupe as Patroness of Mexico. He quotes Psalm 147: “He hath not done in like manner to any other nation.”

• The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was crowned at the order of three Popes: Leo XIII, Pius XI, and Pius XII. Pope Leo XIII took such a personal interest in her coronation that he composed a poem for the occasion, which was put to music and sung at the Offertory on that day.

• In 1894 Pope Leo XIII approved a new Office and Mass for Our Lady of Guadalupe.

• In 1910 Pope Pius X declared the Virgin of Guadalupe Patroness of Latin America.

Pope Benedict XIV — in the papal bull Non est Equidem of May 25, 1754, declared Our Lady of Guadalupe patroness of what was then named “New Spain”

• Pope Pius XI extended the indulgences to all those who would visit any church in which Our Lady of Guadalupe is venerated on the 12th day of each month, and accorded a plenary indulgence at the hour of death to those who wear a medal of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It was he who named her Patroness of all the Americas, and extended her Mass and Office to the universal Church. In 1938 he proclaimed a Holy Year for Mexico in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the following year unveiled a marble monument in her honor in the Vatican gardens.

• Pope Pius XII established nine shrines in Italy dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe and ordered the image to be crowned again on October 12, 1945, the 50th anniversary of the coronation by Pope Leo XIII. Pope Pius XII also proclaimed her Empress of all the Americas, and he himself composed a beautiful prayer to her, in which he placed the purity and integrity of the Mexican faith and that of the entire American continent under her patronage. The prayer, which he recited in a radio address, ended with these words of childlike trust and confidence: “For we are certain that as long as you are recognized as Queen and Mother, Mexico and America will be safe.”

 –Taken from the Reign of Mary Quarterly Magazine, Issue 125

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