The Miracle of the Bent Cross: How Our Lady of Guadalupe's Tilma Survived an Explosion in Mexico's Basilica

The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, Mexico is home to Saint Juan Diego’s tilma.

According to the National Catholic Register, the Basilica is visited by more than 20 million pilgrims annually.

Many miracles have been attributed to Saint Juan Diego, as this apparition is one of the most popular in the Church. 

Almost 103 years ago, on Nov. 14, 1921, a man hid a bomb in a flower pot at the foot of the image of Our Lady, hoping to destroy her Basilica. This man, Luciano Perez Carpio, was an employee of the Private Secretariat of the Presidency. 

Attack on the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico

During this time, the 1917 Mexican Constitution banned Catholic education, barred religious from teaching in schools, and made all public acts of worship illegal, which included all public processions.

Anti-Catholic sentiment was extremely high amongst the Mexican government, which led to years of violent religious persecution. Mexican President Plutarco Elías Calles would ultimately be responsible for the public execution of Blessed Miguel Pro, six years after this bomb attack. 

In a 2021 Aci Prensa interview, Father Eduardo Chávez, a doctor in Church history and general director of Guadalupan Studies stated:

“Around 10:30 in the morning, a dynamite bomb went off hidden among the flowers. The damages were at the steps of the altar, which are made of marble, the brass candlesticks, and the Sacred Image of our Crucified Lord, that fell to the ground and was left bent. The explosion bent the crucifix, which is now ​​known as ‘Santo Cristo del Atentado,’ or ‘Holy Christ of the Attack.'” 

Surprisingly, both the tilma and glass that protects it remained unharmed. The heavy metal of the Cross was bent by the impact of the bomb. 

“When trying to destroy the image, they tried to destroy the Church itself and they could not because this comes from God,” Father Chavez continued. “Just as Saint Mary of Guadalupe, in her marvelous image, is the work of God, so the Church is also the work of God. Christ is the head of this blessed Church that proclaims the truth, justice, love, forgiveness, and mercy – what our people need so much today.” 

Our Lady of Guadalupe has become a symbol of Mexican identity.

In the apparition, the black ribbon around Her waist symbolizes her pregnancy with our Savior. This image so beautifully represents femininity and motherhood, as she was carefully protecting her Son in her womb. During this attack, however, it was the Son who so clearly protected His mother. 

Violent Catholic persecution heavily exists today as the world has witnessed in Cuba, Nicaragua, and China, along with many others. According to the USCCB, “In the United States alone, at least 315 incidents have occurred across 43 states and the District of Columbia since May 2020.”

The 1921 orchestrated attack on Our Lady, her Basilica, and our Catholic faith unfortunately is not an isolated event. 

Coincidently, the failure of Carpio that day, President Calles, and of all those who have ever sought to destroy our beloved Church throughout the world, offers a beacon of hope. 

No matter the person, government, attack, or hatred, our beloved Catholic Church, and our precious faith will forever stand the test of time.

We must never cower our beliefs for fear of public scrutiny. After all, as Our Lady said to Saint Juan Diego:

“Am I not your mother? Am I not life and health? Have I not placed you on my lap and made you my responsibility? Do you need anything else?” 

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