By Robin Gomes
"Mary embraces us and unites us." With this prayer in a video message, Pope Francis expressed his spiritual participation in the 40th pilgrimage to the Marian shrine of Our Lady of Luján in his native Argentina.
Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the September 23 to 26 pilgrimage took place in a virtual way. "Sometimes, and not only sometimes,” the Pope said, “the path becomes difficult.” “And in this moment of pandemic and numerous threats to health, of so much fear, of so many needs,” he noted, “it is even more difficult." Hence, he said, “We need the Mother to embrace us - words that also resonate in the motto of the pilgrimage, ‘Mother, embrace us, we want to keep walking’."
Mother to all
Pope Francis then recalled some testimonies. "A woman told me that one of the tasks of a mother is to unite her children.” “Another woman whom I asked which of her children was her favourite, replied, ‘I have five fingers on my hand: if one of them hurts me, it hurts me in the same way as another. They are all different, but they are all the same’." This, the pontiff said, is “how Our Lady views us." “We are all different, but She is a Mother and She embraces us all.” Before concluding, he imparted his blessing and said he was joining the pilgrimage. He also said he was praying for the pilgrims and urged them not to forget to pray for him.
The pilgrimage of Our Lady of Luján ended on Sunday with a solemn Mass presided over by Bishop Fernando Croxatto of Neuquén, broadcast live on Facebook on the diocesan website.
The history of the statue, located in the city of Lujan, 68 kilometres north-west of Buenos Aires, goes back to 1630. On 8 September 1930, Pope Pius XI formally declared Our Lady of Lujan as the Patroness of Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. Saint Pope John Paul II became the first Pope to visit the Marian shrine in 1982. During an outdoor Mass in the square of the basilica on June 11, he bestowed upon Our Lady of Lujan the Golden Rose.