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Parishioners reverently lift the Black Christ, shrouded in incense, into its permanent setting at St. Elizabeth Church.


A young woman carries an offering of fruit to place at the foot of the Black Christ.


Bishop Alvaro Ramazzini of the Diocese of San Marcos, Guatemala, emphasizes the importance of popular devotions during the ceremony welcoming the image of the Black Christ to Oakland.


Numerous baskets of fruit and vegetables are placed in homage to the crucified Christ.


Women show the depth of their faith and devotion during the Mass welcoming the image.



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February 20, 2006 VOL. 44, NO. 4Oakland, CA

articles list

Christ of Esquipulas
comes to Oakland

Artists use alternatives to images of Muhammad

Priest who rallied parish to help
abandoned kids dies in Nicaragua

Msgr. Martin Walsh dies in Oakland
after 63 years of priestly service

Retirees are the backbone of ministries at St. Anne Parish

Series offered on
spirituality of aging

Armless guitarist releases new CD with message of hope

2004 Financial Report for the Oakland Diocese

Lenten regulations


Immigration reform – a Catholic perspective



Sister William Marie Ayres, SNJM

Sister Matilda Carmel Berryessa, SNDdeN


























Christ of Esquipulas
comes to Oakland

An image of the venerated Black Christ, known in Spanish as El Cristo Negro de Esquipulas, has taken up residence at St. Elizabeth Church in Oakland, thanks to the efforts of a dedicated group of Guatemalan parishioners.

The image, a copy of the 400-year-old original found in Guatemala, will hang permanently in a chapel of the church. It was blessed and presented to the community during a Mass celebrated by Bishop Alvaro Ramazzini of the Diocese of San Marcos, Guatemala, last month.

In his homily, Bishop Ramazzini emphasized the importance of popular devotions and said that it is through the efforts of immigrants that the beliefs and customs of different peoples have come to this country.

The bishop also took the opportunity to speak out against a bill in Congress calling for the construction of a wall along the frontier with Mexico and for harsh regulations aimed at those who seek new opportunities in the U.S.

“No one is a foreigner in the Church,” the bishop said, and he asked those present to fight for their rights and to lobby their legislators.

After his remarks, the celebration continued with traditional Guatemalan dances, songs about the Black Christ of Esquipulas, and offerings of fruit and flowers, which were placed before the newly-arrived image.

In an interview, Bishop Ramazzini said that the Black Christ’s arrival in Oakland has great significance. “It’s a new opportunity to contemplate the mystery of Christ crucified, another opportunity to enter into communion with a spirituality that has existed in Guatemala for 400 years, and above all an opportunity to find refuge.”

He added that immigrants, who often feel alone in this country, can find consolation in contemplating the ministry of the Crucified Lord.

The Black Christ of Esquipulas is one of the mysteries of faith because, as Bishop Ramazzini says, “It is incredible that the devotion has persisted for 400 years and continues to grow.”

Parishioner Rosa Paredes said the arrival of the Black Christ will help strengthen her faith. “I have always been devoted to el Señor de Esquipulas. Ever since I lived in Guatemala I have been praying to him, and today I feel very happy to have him so near. I am going to come more often to visit him.”

Rosendo Casas was also happy to see the image remain in Oakland. “I never could go to the Basilica of Esquipulas, but now I have an image just like the one in Guatemala,” he said.

But how did this devotion come about? According to the official Internet Web site of the Black Christ of Esquipulas, it began in 1595 when a very devout youth called Quirio Cataño carved an image of the Crucified Christ at the request of the indigenous population of Esquipulas.

According to the web site, “The natives wanted a dark image, like the color of their skin, but since there was no wood so dark, they accepted the one young Cataño gave them.”

Tradition says that between night and morning the image turned completely dark, like a miracle of the Lord to please his children of the town of Esquipulas.

But there are other versions regarding the dark color of the image. One is that smoke from innumerable candles constantly lighting the sanctuary caused it to darken. Some say that it is the natural color of the wood, while others say that the image turned dark over time, with the passage of more than four centuries.

When Cataño finished the work, it was placed in a kind of hut and moved to the center of Esquipulas after the sanctuary was built.

Pope John Paul II visited Guatemala on Feb. 6, 1996, to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the creation of the image of the Black Christ. At that time he designated the site as a Basilica.




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