Vatican City, May 8, 2013 / 01:50 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis commended Argentina to the protection of its patron saint Our Lady of Lujan, bringing white flowers to her statue and pausing in prayer ahead of his Wednesday general audience.
“This is the day in which we celebrate Our Lady of Lujan, heavenly Patroness of Argentina,” the Pope said at his general audience May 8.
“I wish to send to all the children of these beloved Argentine lands my sincere affection while I place all their joys and worries in the hands of the Most Holy Virgin.”
He asked Argentine pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square to give a round of applause for the Virgin of Lujan.
“Stronger. I can’t hear it. Stronger!” he encouraged the crowd which broke out in cheers.
Our Lady of Lujan is a terracotta image of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception which is about 14 inches tall. It has been venerated in Argentina since 1630.
That year, a Portuguese ranch owner tried to take the statue from Buenos Aires via caravan to his ranch.
After three days of travel, the oxen pulling the statue’s cart stopped moving near the Lujan river about 42 miles northwest of Buenos Aires. After much failed coaxing, the ox driver unloaded the image and found the oxen would again move. The caravan took this as a sign that the Virgin Mary wanted the statue to be venerated at that place.
Many miracles have been attributed to Our Lady of Lujan’s intercession. Prayers honor her as the foundress of the city of Lujan.
Pope Leo XIII honored the statue in 1886 with a papal coronation. Pope Pius XI declared Our Lady of Lujan to be the patroness of Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay in 1930. The statue is now housed in the Basilica of Lujan.