By Jazmin Rosa and Jessica Easthope
FAR ROCKAWAY — For Guatemalans in the Diocese of Brooklyn, the feast day of “The Black Christ of Esquipulas” came early this year.
The feast day is on Jan. 15, but on Jan. 3, Cardinal Alvaro Ramazzini of the Diocese of Huehuetenango in Guatemala celebrated Mass at St. Mary Star of the Sea, Far Rockaway, in observance of the feast day.
Cardinal Ramazzini visits the Diocese of Brooklyn every year. This year’s visit was particularly special because he was made a cardinal by Pope Francis in October, becoming just the fourth Guatemalan to receive the red hat.
In Guatemala, the feast day of The Black Christ of Esquipulas dates back to 1594, when reportedly a wooden image of Christ was found in a cave in Esquipulas, Guatemala.
“The Señor de Esquipulas in Guatemala has a very great devotion because it is a statue of Jesus Christ, but it’s black and many people have testified he has done a lot of miracles,” Cardinal Ramazzini said.
St. Mary Star of the Sea has a replica of the image. The original sits in the Cathedral Basilica of the Black Christ of Esquipulas, which draws pilgrims from throughout Central and South America who go to the cathedral to venerate the image.
“The big feast is January 15th, but before and after, many people make a pilgrimage to Esquipulas where there is a great basilica,” Cardinal Ramazzini said.
“Many go there to confess their sins, pray and ask for favors from Jesus Christ, so it’s a big feast for all the Guatemalans, especially for those outside of Guatemala … I think the significance is hope for a solution to Guatemalan migrants, and other migrants here. They need hope, they need to have this confidence in God. God doesn’t abandon us.”
That sentiment is shared in New York City, which has a large number of immigrants from Guatemala. Cardinal Ramazzini said the city has become a shining example of embracing many cultures through faith.
“The deepest meaning of this devotion is to have hope in Christ our Savior, and this is very important, especially in the times we are living. It’s a practice of living our faith; it means this open spirit to accept the multiculturality of many people in the United States, not just Guatemalans, so this is a very good sign for me.”