Guatemala (MNN) — Mourners are gathering in a small Guatemalan town to pay their respects to Pope Benedict XVI. Benedict was the first pope in over 600 years to resign his position before death. 50,000 people attended the official service, which was presided over by Pope Francis, in Rome. Brian Dennett with AMG International says, “With the death of Pope Benedict, there’s a time of mourning across Latin America, and certainly in Guatemala. We’ve heard that from various news channels. And I also spoke with our leadership down there. And they confirmed that this is a big subject in the news right now.”
In Guatemala, many mourners will gather on January 15. Dennett says, “There is a very small town in Guatemala called Esquipulas, and there’s a basilica there. Every January, busloads of people arrive in this little town to pay homage to a statue. It’s called the Christo Negro, or black Jesus. It’s a dark wood statue believed to be the source of miracles.”
Dennett says the statue was first commissioned by Spanish colonizers, and it has become an important part of the Catholic Church narrative. “One of the most famous popes of our time, John Paul II, actually visited this basilica in Guatemala. And it was noted as being the smallest town or the smallest city that he visited in his time as Pope.”
“So it really is an important place for Catholics.”
Going back to the Spanish conquest, Guatemala has a huge population of Catholics. But AMG has seen a massive shift in the country, Dennett says. Over the last 20 years, the population has shrunk from 65 percent Catholic to 45 percent Catholic. “Interestingly, Guatemala is now the most Protestant country in Latin America, sharing about evenly the share of the population.”
Pray AMG’s ministry in Guatemala would display Jesus’ love.
You can get involved in AMG’s Guatemala work or their work in other countries around the world. Learn more at amginternational.org.
The header photo shows the statue in the basilica at Esquipulas. (Photo courtesy of Roberto Urrea, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)