More than 37,000 young people made a pilgrimage Saturday to the Christ the King shrine on Cerro del Cubilete in Mexico's Guanajuato state.
The Feb. 23 pilgrimage was organized, as it is each year, by the national youth movement Witness and Hope and had as its theme “Youth to politics: Commitment of faith, solidarity and peace.”
This year the date of the 10 mile walk was changed from the last Saturday of January to the last of February, due to World Youth Day in Panama, which took place Jan. 22-27.
The aim of the pilgrimage, the organizers said, is “to prepare ourselves to engage in politics, true politics, without labels, without euphemisms, in the true sense of attaining the common good.”
The present Cristo Rey which crowns Cerro del Cubilete, a little more than 30 miles southeast of León, is 75 feet tall and was erected in 1950 as a tribute to the martyrs of the Cristero War. In the 1920s persecution by the Mexican government against the Catholic faith, which involved the banning of religious congregations, limitations on worship, prohibiting a priest from dressing as such, reached a point at which civilians in various parts of the country took up arms.
The Mexican government responded with even greater repression and the killing of priests and laity. Among the martyrs of the Cristero War was Saint José Sánchez del Río, who was executed at 14 years of age.
The Cristero forces were known for their cries of “Long live Christ the King” and “Long live the Virgin of Guadalupe!”
The present Cristo Rey statue stands where a smaller one was dynamited in 1928 by the government of Mexican President Plutarco Elías Calles, during the war.
Archbishop Alfonso Cortés Contreras of León celebrated Mass at the shrine and stressed to the young pilgrims the importance of being actively engaged in politics and seeking the common good.
Also attending the pilgrimage was Jerson Velasco, the director of the National Coordination for Adolescents and Young People of the Venezuelan bishops' conference, who shared with the pilgrims about the suffering going on in his country.
“We have lacked food, we have lacked medicine, who have lacked a Christian government, but we have never lacked hope,” he said.
The organizers of the pilgrimage sent their “prayers and expressed their brotherhood with Venezuelan young people who are in the midst of fighting for freedom, democracy and the minimal guarantees of a decent life, without violence, without the shortages of the economic catastrophe and with respect for religious freedom.”