The appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe to Juan Diego was a pivotal moment that changed the history of an entire hemisphere, said Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson, delivering the first presentation of the Knights of Columbus Marian Congress in Phoenix.
Anderson opened the congress on Thursday afternoon (August 6), a little more than one hour after closing the three-day Knights of Columbus Supreme Convention. The congress is part of the Knights’ effort to underline the Catholic character of the Western hemisphere, a character which stems from the appearance of the Blessed Virgin in 1531. The effort is in keeping with the Order’s own founding, which chose Christopher Columbus as its patron in 1882 to stress the Catholic roots of the discovery of the New World.
Billed as the first International Marian Congress on Our Lady of Guadalupe, the program continues on Friday and Saturday, with academic conferences on the image of Guadalupe, a Marian art show and the screening of a movie about Guadalupe. On Saturday afternoon, a Guadalupe Festival of prayer, song, dance and witness talks will be held at the Jobing.com Arena.
A small portion of the tilma (cloak) of Juan Diego, on loan from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, will be on display throughout the congress and festival. More than 1,000 Knights, family members and Catholics from the Phoenix area attended the first session on Thursday.
In his talk, Supreme Knight Anderson said that the apparition and indelible image of Guadalupe helped to convert millions of Mexican indigenous people to the Catholic faith. Yet the message of Our Lady still has application today.
“It is a call to respect all life, in any condition, born and unborn,” he said. “If she could heal the divide of Aztec and Spaniard, she can heal the rifts on our continent today. … What unites us in this hemisphere of baptized Christians” is the faith.
He continued, “Let us grow in faith. It is up to us to take her message to all people, it is up to us to ensure that the future of this continent is one of hope, and that our civilization is one of love.”
Msgr. Eduardo Chavez, postulator of the cause of canonization for Juan Diego, spoke about the evidence for Our Lady of Guadalupe’s appearance in 1531. He said that when Pope John Paul II canonized Juan Diego, he not only made this simple native of Mexico a saint. He also confirmed by his infallible authority the truth about the apparitions and the message of Guadalupe.
By holding the Marian Congress, and promoting devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Knights of Columbus are “the modern Juan Diegos for everybody in the world,” Msgr. Chavez said.
An expert on the symbolism contained on the tilma, which is kept on display in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, Msgr. Chavez will give other addresses on the miraculous nature of the tilma image.
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