Monday, July 14, 2003

Thousands view cloth Catholics link to Mary

The Associated Press

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Several thousand people gathered at St. Paul Catholic Church last weekend to view a half-inch-square piece of cloak that Catholics believe a Mexican peasant wore in 1531 when he met the Virgin Mary.

The cloth was brought to the church to be displayed for one day.

The rest of the cloak, known as the Tilma of Tepeyac, is emblazoned with the image of Mary and is on display in Mexico City, where millions of pilgrims go to view it every year.

About 3,000 Catholics attended Mass and viewed the relic at St. Paul Saturday, said Andrew Walther, coordinator of the tour that will take the Tilma of Tepeyac to 20 cities this year. The event also drew some Protestants.

For Catholics, the experience of seeing the bit of cloth is "a once-in-a-lifetime thing," said Shirley Montague, who has worshiped at St. Paul for 45 years.

According to Catholic tradition, the Virgin Mary appeared to a Mexican peasant named Juan Diego in 1531. She instructed him to tell the bishop of Mexico City to build a church in her honor on the site of an old pagan temple on a hilltop called Tepeyac.

To convince the bishop that Juan Diego was her messenger, Mary miraculously imprinted her image on Juan Diego's cloak and caused roses to bloom in December. Juan Diego took the flowers to the bishop as sign of his authority.

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