During the Angelus last Sunday, I offered some reflections on Toronto, where the 17th World Youth Day took place. Today I would like to dwell on my subsequent stops in Guatemala and Mexico during my apostolic trip, where the Lord gave me the joy of canonizing and beatifying some illustrious sons of the American continent.
First of all, I feel the need to reiterate my heartfelt gratitude to the political, administrative and military authorities of these respective countries, as well as their institutional organizations, for the warm welcome and the hospitality that they extended to my collaborators and me.
I also extend my gratitude to the bishops, priests, brothers, sisters, volunteers and families who generously made every effort to welcome the pilgrims and to see that everything went as smoothly as possible. Their mutual efforts helped to insure that a spiritual climate of joy and celebration characterized every stage of my pilgrimage. But my deepest and warmest thanks go to the Christian people who turned out in such vast numbers to meet me in Guatemala and Mexico. The strong turnout of these brothers and sisters enabled me to catch a glimpse of the faith that impels them, their filial affection for the Successor of Peter and their enthusiasm for belonging to the Catholic Church.
Their lives constitute an exemplary model of attaining the heights of sanctity while remaining faithful to an ancestral culture that has been illuminated by Christ's renewing grace.
An Apostle to the Poor
The occasion for my visit to Guatemala City was the canonization of Brother Pedro de San Josè de Batancur, who was born on the island of Tenerife and who traveled across the ocean to evangelize the poor and indigenous people of Cuba, then Honduras, and finally Guatemala, which he loved to call his “Promised Land.” He was a man of intense prayer and a dauntless apostle of God's mercy. He found energy for his ministry by reflecting on the mysteries of Bethlehem and Calvary. Prayer was the source of his zeal and his apostolic courage. A humble and austere man, he was able to recognize in his brothers and sisters, especially in those who were most neglected, the face of Christ, and for each person who was in need he was “the man who helped them with alms.” His example is an invitation to practice merciful love toward our brothers and sisters, especially those who are most neglected. His intercession inspires and sustains believers in Guatemala and throughout the whole world so that they will open their hearts to Christ and to their brothers and sisters.
The First Indian Saint
The last stop during my pilgrimage was Mexico City, where on two different occasions in the Basilica of Guadalupe, I had the joy of raising to the honors of the altar three sons from that beloved land: St. Juan Diego, the Indian to whom the Virgin appeared on the hill of Tepeyac, and Blessed Juan Bautista and Blessed Jacinto de los Angeles, who shed their blood in the year 1700 in order to remain faithful to their baptism and to the Catholic Church.
Juan Diego, the first Indian to be canonized, was a humble and generous man of great simplicity. He is intimately linked with Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose mestizo face manifests a tender, maternal love for all the Mexican people. The events at Guadalupe constitute the beginning of evangelization in Mexico — a model of evangelization that is perfectly integrated within the culture, thereby showing how people can receive the Christian message without having to give up their own culture.
Models of Holiness
Blessed Juan Bautista and Blessed Jacinto de los Angeles are the fruit of holiness from that initial evangelization among the Zapotecan Indians. Fathers of families and men of utmost integrity, they knew how to carry out their responsibilities in a way that was inspired by the teachings of the Gospel without giving up their traditional indigenous culture. Their lives constitute an exemplary model of attaining the heights of sanctity while remaining faithful to an ancestral culture that has been illuminated by Christ's renewing grace.
These faithful disciples of Christ, filially devoted to Mary, the Virgin of Guadalupe, Mother and Queen of the Americas, whose memory constantly accompanied me throughout my pastoral visit, are sustaining the surge of missionary activity among believers in America who are serving the new evangelization. They are a stimulus for all of God's people to build a new humanity that is inspired by the perennial values of the Gospel.