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Catholic community observes rare rites

Priests crown icon, consecrate archdiocese

POSTED: December 24, 2007 5:02 a.m.
GAINESVILLE — For the first time in the history of Atlanta’s Archdiocese, Catholic priests Wednesday crowned the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Father Fabio Sotelo performed the rite at St. Michael Catholic Church in Gainesville, along with priests in 17 other parishes throughout the Atlanta Roman Catholic district.

At the coronation mass, Sotelo crowned an image that came from the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.

Before the crowning, Sotelo told those at the church that the ceremony recognized Guadalupe as the queen of the Archdiocese of Atlanta.

"And who can be a better leader than Our Lady of Guadalupe?" Sotelo said.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, also referred to as the Virgin of Guadalupe, is a Roman Catholic icon. She is especially significant to Mexican Catholics, who sometimes refer to her as the "brown-skinned virgin."

Catholics say she appeared near Mexico City in 1536 speaking in the native Aztec language as an apparition of the Virgin Mary.

The appearances of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which are said to have occurred between Dec. 9 and Dec. 12, sparked the conversion of many natives to Christianity during the Spanish rule of Mexico.

The Catholic church regards the Virgin Mary as a queen, because she is the mother of the son of God, who they consider the messianic king.

Catholics consider her the foremost member of the Catholic church, according to documents from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

It is only considered proper to crown images of the Virgin Mary that members of the church have confidence in, according to the documents.

"Our Lady has done enormous things for this archdiocese," Sotelo said.

The district also renewed its consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary for the second time in the history of the archdiocese.

As the Apostle John dedicated his life to the pure heart of the Virgin Mary, so did the churches within the Archdiocese of Atlanta, Sotelo said.

As part of the renewed consecration, Archbishop Wilton Gregory wanted the members of St. Michael to consider devoting more of their time to their faith by praying to the Virgin every day, praying the rosary at home every day and praying it once a week in the parish, Sotelo said.

Also, Sotelo asked the church to "be more united and more caring for one another."

The last time the consecration was performed in the Archdiocese of Atlanta was 1956 under then-Bishop Francis Hyland, Sotelo said.

Both the coronation and the consecration were a part of the annual Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.



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