A historic number of 12.5 million pilgrims visited Our Lady of Guadalupe at her shrine in Mexico City in recent days, authorities have confirmed.

In a Dec. 13 statement, the Mexico City Government Secretariat said the Mexican capital “received 12,500,000 pilgrims at the Basilica of Guadalupe.”

This number, the agency stated, “broke the record for visitors.”

The Basilica of Guadalupe is the most visited Marian sanctuary in the world and even exceeds the number of pilgrims to Vatican City.

Traditionally, more than 10 million pilgrims begin to arrive in the Mexican capital in the first few days of December from different corners of the country, in many cases walking.

Once in the Marian shrine, the devotees contemplate and pray before the image that miraculously appeared on the tilma of the indigenous St. Juan Diego on Dec. 12, 1531.

The pilgrimages reach their peak on the night of Dec. 11, when hundreds of thousands fill the basilica and its atrium to sing “Las Mañanitas” to the Virgin of Guadalupe, a traditional Mexican song for birthday celebrations.

Many of the pilgrims who arrive at the Basilica of Guadalupe spend the night in the atrium.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021, pilgrimages were suspended and devotees were not allowed to spend the night outside the church.

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The Government Secretariat of Mexico City stressed that the days of pilgrimages took place “in peace and with a blank balance sheet,” that is, without injuries or incidents.

“It is important to highlight the exemplary conduct of the parishioners, whose safety was protected from Dec. 8 to 13 through the Basilica 2022 Operation ‘Welcome Pilgrim,’ implemented by the Government of Mexico City,” the secretariat said.

Apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe

The Virgin of Guadalupe appeared to the Aztec St. Juan Diego from Dec. 9-12, 1531, and asked him to intercede with the first bishop of Mexico, the Franciscan Friar Juan de Zumárraga, for a church to be built on the flat area at the foot of Tepeyac Hill.

As proof of the authenticity of the apparition, the Virgin Mary told the native to bring the flowers of a rose bush that miraculously appeared on arid Tepeyac Hill to the bishop.

When St. Juan Diego presented the flowers to the bishop, his tilma, the cloak in which he carried them, bore the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, and the bishop authorized the construction of the church.

The image of the Virgin, full of symbols that could be read by the Mexican indigenous people, promoted the evangelization of Mexico, facilitating millions of conversions in the following years.

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The tilma of St. Juan Diego with the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe shows no signs of deterioration after almost 500 years and is kept in the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City.

In 1921, a government employee, in the prelude to a wide scale persecution of the Catholic Church, attempted to destroy the image with dynamite concealed in a floral arrangement placed on the altar in front of the image. The explosion caused no damage to the miraculous image of Our Lady, and the glass protecting the image of Our Lady wasn’t even broken, although there was extensive damage to the rest of the church.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.