At the procession beginning, Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, said it was an opportunity to ask Mary to bless immigrant people.
All: RaÚl A. Ayrala/THE CATHOLIC VOICE
Guadalupe pilgrims offer prayers, silence for fire victims
The 11th diocesan pilgrimage in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe drew a record number of participants who were moved by the tragedy of the Oakland "Ghost Ship" warehouse fire that began the night before, Dec. 2 and claimed 36 lives. While the march followed its usual 7.5-mile course down International Boulevard, along Lake Merritt to the Cathedral of Christ the Light, in the area of 31st Street, the procession was diverted to avoid the fire scene. As the crowd passed the area of the fire, it drew silent and offered prayers, while firefighters and rescue crews worked, and helicopters from local television stations flew overhead.
Héctor Medina, head of the diocesan Latino ministry, noted the parade itself had the most entrants ever, and estimated more than 4,000 people participated.
At the procession beginning, Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, blessed the participants, saying the event should not only be a cultural or traditional one, but an opportunity to pray and thank God and ask Him through his Mother to continue blessing immigrant people.
Msgr. Antonio Valdivia worries about the future of immigrants: "This is our way of showing anyone who wants to see that Latinos are here to stay," he said.
A special guest this year was the canon of the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico, Msgr. Eduardo Chavez, who delivered the homily during Mass. The Mexican prelate, who participated in the cause for the canonization of Juan Diego, said he felt very honored to be in Oakland for this occasion. "Seeing the faith of this people of God has moved me almost to tears, and gives me hope because it is the best way to show it occupies an important place in this country."
At the end of the Mass, a girl dressed in traditional Mexican clothing approached Bishop Barber and handed him a multicolored bouquet of flowers, which he placed at the foot of Our Lady. The faithful present were moved when the bishop fell on his knees, bowed his head and asked Mary's blessing, while kissing her image.
The annual diocesan pilgrimage, first held in 2006. takes place on a Saturday close to the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Dec. 12), the patroness of the Americas.
Catholic scholars say the dark-skinned image of Mary, known as Our Lady of Guadalupe, also has been identified by leaders of the universal Catholic Church as the face of the new evangelization. The story of how Mary appeared to St. Juan Diego, a poor Aztec Indian in 1531 near present-day Mexico City, brought more than 6 million indigenous people into the Catholic faith within a decade.
For the 11th year, thousands of pilgrims made the 7.5-mile trek down International Boulevard, along Lake Merritt, to the Cathedral of Christ the Light.
Same groups dressed in traditional regional costume, while other groups were identified by their parish banners.
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