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5.3 million take part in Mexico pilgrimage
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MEXICO CITY — More than five million people traveled to Mexico City’s Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe this year to pay their respects to one of Latin America?s most revered holy figures, authorities said Monday.

Arriving on their knees, by bicycle or bus, more than 5.3 million pilgrims from across Mexico and beyond paid their respects on the 480th anniversary of the dark-skinned Virgin’s appearance before Indian peasant Juan Diego in 1531.

Roman Catholics travel to Mexico City’s Basilica at the start of December in a pilgrimage that culminates on December 12 to give thanks for help with personal problems.

Many carry shrines or portraits of the Virgin of Guadalupe, who was named patroness of all the Americas by papal decree. Former pope John Paul II canonized Juan Diego as the first Indian saint of the Americas in 2002.

This year’s celebration came as Pope Benedict XVI announced he would travel to Mexico and communist Cuba next year, during a mass relayed to millions across Latin America.

The visits are expected in March although no official dates were announced.

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