Virgin Of Guadalupe Appears On Web Site

SUNDAY, DEC. 1, 1996

Just two weeks shy of her 465th anniversary, Mexico’s revered Virgin of Guadalupe - also fondly known as Lupe - has stepped into the modern age with her own page on the Internet: the “Interlupe.”

“Nearly 500 years after she first appeared to us, we’re embarking on a new way to send her message of peace, harmony and salvation,” said Juan Homero Hernandez, a scholar and member of the Guadalupean Studies Center in Mexico City.

The Virgin’s home page serves as an example of how modern science can advance ancient beliefs, Hernandez said Friday at the 21st annual National Guadalupean Congress in Mexico City.

The Virgin, a dark-skinned version of the Madonna, is credited with bringing Roman Catholicism to Mexico’s indigenous population, which resisted the religion of the invading Spaniards for decades.

Today, more than 90 percent of Mexico’s 90 million citizens are Catholic.

Worshipers believe that the patron saint of Mexico first appeared to the peasant Juan Diego in the winter of 1531 on a hill just outside of Mexico City. Juan Diego told the city’s bishops he had seen the mother of Jesus, but they did not believe him.

The peasant returned to the site, at which point the Virgin told him to pick roses she had made bloom on the hillside in midwinter as proof of her existence.

When Juan Diego opened his cloak before priests back in Mexico City, the roses fell out, revealing a perfect image of the Virgin stamped on the cloth. The cloak hangs today in Mexico City’s Guadalupe Basilica. The Virgin remains the country’s most important religious tradition.

Some academics have doubted the existence of Juan Diego and of the Virgin herself, arguing that she was probably an invention of the Spaniards to convert the indigenous population to Catholicism.

Hernandez dismisses such doubts.

“The Virgin’s image today holds the same power as when she first appeared,” he said. “And now, with the lights shed by modern technology, we will be able to spread the Christian beliefs stamped on (Juan Diego’s) cloak.”

The Interlupe home page contains diagrams of Juan Diego’s cloak, the history of the Virgin’s apparition, and historical and scientific documents on the cloak complete the Madonna’s menu.

Despite new Internet access to the Virgin, traditional forms of worshiping Mexico’s patron saint are unlikely to fade. More than a million Mexicans are expected to make the annual pilgrimage - many on their knees - to the Virgin’s basilica on Dec. 12.

xxxx Virtual Virgin Interlupe can be accessed at msalazar.

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