Guanare (Agenzia Fides) - More than 7,000 people were present for a special Mass on 20 October during which the national shrine of Our Lady of Coromoto, patron saint of Venezuela, was raised to the rank of Minor Basilica. The Mass was presided by the Archbishop of Caracas, Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino. The concelebrants included the Nuncio Apostolic in Venezuela, Archbishop Giacinto Berlocco, Bishop Ubaldo Santana president of the Bishops Conference and all the Bishops of the country who were taking part in the 36th special assembly. Bishop José Sotero Valero of Guanare asked Pope Benedict XVI to raise the church to the rank of Minor Basilica to encourage devotion to Our Lady of Coromoto and give more importance to this national Marian shrine.
At 8 am on 20 October Bishop Manuel Díaz Sánchez of Carúpano, led the recitation of the Rosary in del Santo Spanish, Italian, English, Filipino and Portuguese At 11 am there was a procession with the entrance of the Confraternities. During the Mass Cardinal Urosa said the act was an important "demonstration of unity and communion, among the bishops of Venezuela". He appealed to Catholics to “assume with joy, enthusiasm and fidelity our condition as missionaries of Jesus Christ”. The Cardinal asked "parents, young people, children, lay faithful, members of associations, groups of secular apostolate; religious and consecrated person, priests and bishops to be ever more aware of the powerful call to new evangelisation launched by John Paul II and more recently by Pope Benedict XVI, and lately by the Plenary Council of Venezuela and the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean at Aparecida: the call to announce with apostolic ardour the person, the message, the deeds and the gifts of Jesus Christ for the people of Venezuela ”.
He recalled the right and duty of bishops to express their opinion on situations in the country, referring to the latest Bishops' Conference statement on the present situation (see Fides 22/10/2007) "with the sole purpose of illuminating with the light of the Gospel and Catholic Social Doctrine the path of Venezuela which must be a path of justice, peace, progress and inclusion of all Venezuelans". "We must be faithful to the Lord, not to the leaders of this world - ha said the Cardinal -. We are called to build and to defend paths of peace which are paths of justice, human rights, social harmony. And this is what the Bishops of Venezuela do in their statements which indicate paths of peace and warn against dangers and obstacles to peace ".
The church dedicated to Our Lady of Coromoto, built on the site where the Blessed Virgin Mary of Coromoto appeared in 1652, was consecrated as National Shrine on 7 January 1996 and blessed by Pope John Paul II during his second visit to Venezuela, on the 10th February that same year. It was elevated to the rank of Minor Basilica with a Holy See decree dated 12 August. 2007. (RG) (Agenzia Fides 23/10/2007; righe 36, parole 519)