.- Hundreds of thousands of people gathered in Mexico City on Wednesday to celebrate the 476th anniversary of the apparition of the Our Lady of Guadalupe to St. Juan Diego, the Associated Press reports.
Celebrants set off fireworks, sang and prayed inside the packed Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe. The celebration included ethnic dancers from around Mexico as crowds of people carried large posters of the Virgin’s image to be blessed inside the church.
The Virgin’s miraculous image on the tilma or cloak of St. Juan Diego helped convert millions Mexican natives to Christianity after the conquest of the Spaniards. St. Juan Diego, the first Indian saint, was canonized in 2002 by Pope John Paul II.
Gerardo Romero, 23, crawled in devotion on his hands and knees through the large courtyard in front of the basilica. `I'm doing it so that my daughter will be born healthy,'' he said, explaining his actions.
"I am giving thanks for everything the Virgin has given us all year,'' added Trinidad Manuel Garcia, 70, a Mexico City native dressed in the garb of his Indian Mexica ancestors. Garcia said he has made the pilgrimage every year since 1949.