Among the Popes who have honored Our Lady of Luján are Clement XI, Clement XIV, Pius VI, Pius IX, Leo XIII, Pius XI, Pius XII, John Paul II, and Francis, the first “son of Argentina” to follow in St. Peter’s footsteps. In 1824 Fr. John Mastai Ferretti visited the shrine on his way to Chile. He later became Pope Blessed Pius IX who defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception on December 8, 1854.
Because of the reputation of the shrine, Pope Leo XIII decided in 1886 to honor the miraculous statue with a papal coronation. On September 30 of that year he blessed the crown, which was made of pure gold set with 365 diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires, 132 pearls and a number of enamels depicting the emblems of the Archbishop and the Argentine Republic. The papal coronation of Our Lady of Luján took place on May 8, 1887. The celebrant chosen by the Pope for this event was Archbishop Aueiros, who made a pilgrimage at that time in thanksgiving to Our Lady for sparing his archdiocese from the scourge of cholera.
In 1930 Pope Pius XI solemnly declared Our Lady of Luján Patroness of Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay—a long standing spiritual reality, now blessed and confirmed by the Holy Father himself.
Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli served as the Papal Legate to the XXXII International Eucharistic Congress held in Buenos Aires in October, 1934. He visited the Basilica on October 15 and later recalled the day saying “upon entering the Basilica, whose two spires rise to heaven like shouts of jubilation, it seemed as if we had arrived at the depths of the soul of the great Argentine peope.” When he later became Pope Pius XII, he made a radio address to the pilgrims in Luján on the occasion of the First Marian Congress in Argentina in 1947.
In 1982, Pope John Paul II became the first pope to visit Our Lady of Luján in person. During this historic mission of peace and encouragement at a difficult time in the history of Argentina, the Holy Father celebrated an outdoor Mass in the square of the Basilica of Our Lady of Luján and bestowed upon her the Golden Rose. Both in his homily of June 11 and his Angelus back in Rome reflecting on the trip, he commented on Our Lady’s never failing maternal solicitude for the faithful in times of distress. Sixteen years later in Rome, John Paul II gave a replica of the image to the Argentine National Parish during his pastoral visit there.
The Golden Rose
The Golden Rose is a gift granted by the Pope to nations, cities, basilicas, sanctuaries or images. It is personally blessed by him on the fourth Sunday of Lent, anointed with the Holy Chrism and dusted with incense. This Rose consists of a golden rose stem with flowers, buds and leaves, placed in a silver vase lined on the inside with a bronze case bearing the Papal shield. Pope Leo IX is considered as the originator of this rite in the year 1049.
In the Americas, the Rose has been given to Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico, to Our Lady of Aparecida in Brazil, and on June 11, 1982 John Paul II personally bestowed one on Our Lady of Luján, Patroness of Argentina. Most recently, Pope Benedict XVI bestowed the Golden Rose upon the Immaculate Conception, Patroness of the United States, at the National Shrine in Washington, DC during his 2008 visit.