Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury has said the disregard for human life in the western world today bears a resemblance to the Aztec practice of human sacrifice.
Both societies held a belief that some human lives can be discarded, the bishop said, adding: “We cannot regard any human life as inferior to our own whether we meet them in the helpless refugee, the unborn child or the abandoned elderly person.”
He said today’s culture of death was now threatening the lives of those considered to be a “financial burden” – the elderly and the sick – through assisted suicide and euthanasia.
His comments were made in the presence of the relic image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which had been brought to the cathedral the previous day as part of a national tour of Catholic churches and shrines.
“Today we welcome on pilgrimage this replica image of the Virgin of Guadalupe so revered across the Americas. We glimpse Our Lady anew … in the way she appeared amid a dying civilisation, the Aztec world, which had become a culture of death which saw the well-being of society as being sustained by the cruelty of human sacrifice on a vast scale.
“We can see a resemblance with the declining civilisation of the western world which in similar ways sacrifices and discards the lives of millions of human beings in abortion; in embryo experimentation and fertility treatments; and now threatens the lives of those who pose the greatest financial burden – the sick and the aged in assisted suicides and euthanasia.”
Bishop Davies said that in appearing to St Juan Diego on 9 December 1531 the Blessed Virgin Mary demonstrated solidarity with the oppressed native population.
“Mary chose literally to be seen not only with but also as one of these discarded people,” he said. “We note that Mary always appears in history beside the little ones, the poorest and most vulnerable. This image reminds us where we should always expect to find her.”
“It was with the help of this image and its rich language of image and symbol that indigenous peoples came to welcome the Gospel,” he continued.
The visit of the relic image of the patroness of the international pro-life movement – which has touched the tilma bearing the original image given to St Juan – follows the success of visits last year to cathedrals in Leeds, Norwich and Portsmouth as well as to the Marian shrine at Walsingham.
The visit to Shrewsbury is the first stop of a 2015 tour for the relic image, whose permanent home at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Bedford.
It will remain in front of the Chapel of St Winifred in the Cathedral of Our Lady Help of Christians and St Peter of Alcantara until tomorrow (May 15).
After a 12:15pm Mass the relic image will return to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe at the Church of the Holy Child and St Joseph before setting out on visits to Peterborough, Southampton and Brentwood as well as Walsingham later this year.