Thousands of devout Catholics waited for hours outside the Guadalajara Metropolitan Cathedral Wednesday to catch a glimpse of the sacred relics of Pope John Paul II.
A wax figure of the late pope, various personal objects and a sample of his blood, drawn a day before he died and placed in a glass vial, were displayed in several sites across the city from Wednesday to Friday, as part of a wider tour of Mexico.
“John Paul II, the whole world loves you!” sang the waiting crowd to keep up spirits, as an almighty queue snaked back and forth around the Plaza de Armas, with thousands of determined, umbrella-wielding Tapatios enduring the hot mid-afternoon sun to be present.
When the holy relics arrived (slightly late) at the cathedral, those at the front had been waiting for around three hours for their privileged position.
The church bells rang out as two white Ford vans rolled up in front of the edifice. The crowd immediately broke ranks, mobbing the vehicles and completely blocking off access to Avenida 16 de Septiembre.
The younger members of the crowd immediately took out their camera phones, while many of the more mature attendees intoned prayers while clutching images of the Virgin Mary or other religious iconography.
Present inside the cathedral was Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iñiguez, the archbishop of Guadalajara, who said the Pope always “knew how to transmit the presence of God, as well as peace and security.”
Mexico, the country with the world’s second-largest Catholic population after Brazil, asked the Vatican to bring the relics here several months after John Paul II was beatified in Rome by his successor Pope Benedict XVI.
John Paul II visited Mexico on five occasions and in 1979 made a famous appearance at the Zapopan Basilica, where his relics were taken later on Wednesday evening.
On Thursday and Friday the relics were due to visit various destinations across the metropolitan area, including the Martyrs’ Sancutuary, which is still under construction, before finally moving on to Tepic, Nayarit on Saturday.
An estimated 26,000 people visited the John Paul II’s relics in Ciudad Guzman, the last stop on the tour before Guadalajara.