December 8, 2006

New Tijuana cathedral honors Our Lady of Guadalupe

By Pablo Jaime Sainz

A few days before December 12, Tijuana’s “old” Cathedral, in the heart of Downtown, begins the celebration that will commemorate one of the most important events for Mexican Catholicism: The apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe to San Juan Diego on December 12, 1531.

The Cathedral’s altar is beautifully decorated with images of La Guadalupana and of San Juan Diego. An artificial waterfall recreates Mount Tepeyac, place where the event took place more than half a century ago. Red roses are present throughout the Cathedral. People sing to la Virgen de Guadalupe:

“Desde el cielo una hermosa mañana,
desde el cielo una hermosa mañana,
la Guadalupana, la Guadalupana
bajó al Tepeyac.”

The dream of thousands of Tijuana devotees of la Virgen de Guadalupe will soon become a reality.

The construction of the new Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe is in progress in Zona Río and Catholics in this city feel they deserve the state-of-the-art church that pays tribute to La Virgen de Guadalupe.

“Finally, we can say that our prayers have been answered,” said Carmelita Rodríguez, an 80-year-old woman who attended Mass at the temporary site adjacent to the construction.

Tijuana’s “old” cathedral is located Downtown, on the corners of Calle Segunda and Avenida Niños Héroes.

Artist rendering.

The new cathedral has been a dream that began almost 30 years ago, when in 1978, Cardinal Juan Jesús Posadas Ocampo obtained the land as a donation from the federal government.

After that, it was a constant struggle to get the project going, which throughout these years, has seen two bishops come and go.

It wasn’t until 1996, when the present Archbishop, Father Rafael Romo Muñoz, arrived in Tijuana, that he made this project a priority.

“Thanks to its geographical location, it is here where our nation begins, and in the same way, it is here where the kingdom of Our Lady of Guadalupe begins all over Latin America,” reads the new Cathedral’s website.

The website goes on to add that Tijuana is a “progressive and cornerstone city for the Catholic faith that deserves a structure of great dimensions.”

Indeed, it is huge.

Its plaza will have space for almost 15,000 people. In the center, the plaza will have a fountain that will pay tribute to the orders that Christianized Baja California: the Jesuits, the Franciscans, and the Dominicans.

The architecture is inspired by the old California missions, the website states. Inside, it will have room for almost 5,000 people.

“It is really a great project that will change our city forever, especially us Catholics,” said Francisco Vega, who visited the temporary cathedral on a recent day. “Looking at the blueprints, I can tell there’s nothing like this in Tijuana.”

The Cathedral’s website states: “The new cathedral will not only become the heart of the Diocese’s religious life, it will also become one of the most popular symbols in our region.”

It adds that “it will pay tribute to Jesus on the Cross and to the Virgin Mary, and it will become a symbol of the love we feel for our own mother, who is with us in every single moment.”

I visited the temporary cathedral a few days ago. When you’re there, you can feel the emotion that visitors feel when they see the construction going on a few feet away.

“It’s really important for us, really,” Carmelita Rodríguez said. “When they made the proposal 30 years ago, I was 50 years old. Now I’m 80 and I hope I live to see it finished.”

Tijuana, like the rest of Mexico, has a Catholic majority. The Tijuana Diocese extends to the municipalities of Rosarito as well. Some of the better-known Catholic temples in Tijuana include the “old” Cathedral in Downtown and Parroquia de San Francisco de Asís, across the street from Parque Teniente Guerrero, also in Downtown Tijuana.

When it is finished, the new cathedral will attract thousands of faithful Catholics, even from San Diego.

At least that’s what Juan Duarte predicts. “I come from Chula Vista and attend Mass here in Tijuana because I think there’s a different feeling here. As a Mexican, I feel more comfortable in a Mexican church. Even though we have Spanish-speaking priests in the U.S., the sermons tend to be more realistic to the Mexican experience in Tijuana,” he said.

Duarte said he plans on attending Mass when the new cathedral opens.

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