The Virgin and the national soccer team give hope to Argentines, priest says

Our Lady of Luján Argentina World Cup The World Cup arrived Jan. 4, 2023, at the Basilica of Our Lady of Luján in Argentina. | Credit: Luján Shrine

The World Cup won by the Argentine soccer team arrived Wednesday at the Basilica of Our Lady of Luján as a way of thanking the Virgin for the team winning the world championship. The rector of the basilica, Father Lucas García, considered it “a joy” to be able to make the connection between what soccer represents and the Virgin of Luján, “the Mother of Hope.”

Wednesday evening, Jan. 4, Claudio “Chiqui” Tapia, president of the Argentine Soccer Association, arrived in the city of Luján in Buenos Aires province to visit the national shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Luján and place at the feet of the Virgin, patroness of Argentina, the national team’s greatest achievement: winning the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Speaking with ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language sister news agency, Father García acknowledged that the arrival of the cup wasn’t a surprise but that it had been in the works since the team’s victory in the World Cup final against France on Dec. 18.

The initial intention, he explained, was “that the team could come to the shrine” as the winning teams of the two previous cups had done in 1978 and 1986.

“Due to the players’ schedule, the short time left for the holidays, and all the festivities in Argentina, this could not be achieved,” the priest said, but “the intention was always to come and thank the Virgin,” he said.

“In fact, the Virgin of Luján is always at the players’ sides, and she was in Argentina’s locker room,” he said.

“Even ‘Chiqui' Tapia is a religious person who wanted to bring the World Cup to this place and thank the Virgin and God for what we had received and for the joy of all Argentines.”

The promise remained unfulfilled, but on Wednesday it came true: “They called us at the basilica saying that in the evening they were going to come by with the cup and bring it to the Virgin, so around 8:30 p.m. Tapia arrived in Luján and we made him enter by the parking lot, because the church was already closed — it closes at 8 p.m. — and we took the cup to the Virgin of Luján.”

Reflecting on Tapia’s visit, the priest considered it “a joy, for what soccer represents for Argentina.”

The priest recalled the words of the national team coach, Lionel Sebastián Scaloni, “when he said that in reality it’s a game, but we Argentines, with the passion we have for this sport, feel it to be much more.”

“It represents a bit of our essence, what we are and what we experience,” García said.

“And when it comes to discovering soccer as something inherent to Argentines, so is the Virgin,” he said, who “represents us as the Mother of all of us, the one who cares for us and also sustains us to move forward.”

“For me it is always a very beautiful gesture to be able to join together these things that speak of Argentina: the Virgin of Luján, the religiosity of the people, what is done at the shrine; and soccer, not only with the World Cup, because many soccer players come here to Luján, who also put their lives in her hands.”

Along the same lines, the priest said: “This national team gave us a little hope in this complex time that we are living in, and Our Lady is also the Mother of Hope for all of us.”

The most beautiful thing that this national soccer team gave to the Argentines, and that the Virgin also gives them, said the rector of the basilica, is the invitation “to experience something different: to break with the divisions, with the fighting, and seek a community that can celebrate and celebrate in peace.”

“On this journey toward the 400th anniversary of the Virgin of Luján (in 2030), it seems important to me to reflect on what hope is, on what Argentines can do when we really set goals for ourselves and try to pull in the same direction, when we stop fighting,” he reflected.

The priest concluded by inviting his compatriots to appreciate “how important it is to have this Mother who sustains us on this journey that is so beautiful to be able to undertake.”

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

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