Pope John Paul canonised Mexico's first indigenous saint, Juan Diego, yesterday afternoon. More than 22,000 people packed into the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadaloupe for the special Mass. Hundreds of thousands of cheering and singing people lined the streets of Mexico City, to catch a glimpse of the Pope as he made his way to the Basilica. Indians dressed in plumed headdresses danced up the central aisle of the basilica during the service. Three men in indigenous costumes blew conch shells and the entire congregation shook maracas. In 1531, Juan Diego, an Indian peasant, is said to have witnessed an apparition of a dark-skinned Madonna - the Virgin of Guadalupe - who is Mexico's patron saint. During his homily, the Pope called upon all to respect the rights and cultures of the original inhabitants of the Americas. He appealed to all Mexicans to help Indians rise from poverty and subjugation. Pope John Paul said: "It is particularly necessary today to support indigenous people in their legitimate aspirations, respecting and defending the authentic values of each ethnic group... Mexico needs its indigenous people and the indigenous people need Mexico." The atmosphere was described as "euphoric" by the BBC's correspondent in Mexico City, Nick Miles.
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