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Pope Francis touches a statue of Our Lady of Luján at his general audience in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace Dec. 2, 2020. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, May 6, 2021 / 07:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis sent a video message to Argentina Thursday ahead of the feast of Our Lady of Luján.

“I wish to be close to you … when all you bishops will gather to pray the rosary for the health of the Argentine people. I will accompany you from here,” Pope Francis said in the video published on May 6.

Our Lady of Luján is the patron saint of Argentina. Since 1630, the 14-inch terracotta statue of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception has been venerated by the Argentine people.

When Pope Francis served as the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he used to make frequent pilgrimages to the Basilica of Our Lady of Luján, where he would also hear confessions, according to Vatican News.

“Remember all that the Virgin has accomplished in your homeland. Let yourselves be accompanied by her, and accompany her in her journey,” the pope said in the message.

The feast of Our Lady of Luján, on May 8, commemorates how the icon first came to the city of Luján in the 17th century.

As a Portuguese ranch owner tried to take the statue from Buenos Aires via caravan to his ranch, the oxen pulling the statue’s cart stopped moving near the Luján river about 42 miles northwest of Buenos Aires.

After much failed coaxing, the ox-driver unloaded the image and found that the oxen moved again. The caravan took this as a sign that the Virgin Mary wanted the statue to be venerated at that place. Our Lady of Luján is now honored as the foundress of the city of Luján.

Many miracles have been attributed to Our Lady of Luján’s intercession. Pope Leo XIII honored the statue in 1886 with a papal coronation. Pope Pius XI declared Our Lady of Luján patroness of Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay in 1930.

On the May 8 feast day, the Basilica of Our Lady of Luján will lead Pope Francis’ rosary prayer marathon, which is taking place throughout May.

The pope noted that Church leadership in Argentina is also using the feast to convene together to prepare for the celebrations leading up to the 400-year anniversary of the Marian image in 2030.

“It is a very long journey, but one that goes by quickly, one that must be done,” he said. “A journey to commemorate what the Virgin did there, she wanted to stay there. A journey of memory, of years and years of pilgrimage, of searching, of miracles, of daughters and sons who journey to see the mother.”

“May God bless you all and may the Virgin keep you. And please, do not forget to pray for me,” he said.

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