Who goes up to Christ the Redeemer?
Annual pilgrimage of the "Friends of Mario Hiriart" to Christ the Redeemer
CHILE/ARGENTINA, Amelia Peirone. Annually on the third Sunday in March, (the 16th this year), some 30 people go up to the statue of Christ the Redeemer, which is situated at a height of 4,000 meters above sea level in the Cordilleras of the Andes, between Las Cuevas (Argentina) and Los Andes (Chile). In these days of seeking true ways for peace and justice between nations, it is a deep desire of the "Friends of Mario Hiriart" to pray for peace during this annual pilgrimage, especially in the Middle East and Iraq. Moreover, they already prepare for the pilgrimage of next year, to celebrate the centenary of the memorial of Christ, the Redeemer.
At Sundays we use to sleep very late at home. But every year on the third Sunday in March, a group of people from both sides of the Cordilleras sget up very early in the morning to join the pilgrimage. Meanwhile it is history. I am speaking of the pilgrimage of the "Friends of Mario Hiriart" on both sides of the Cordilleras of the Andes, this high, grand range of mountains, which forms the natural border between Argentina and Chile in South America. Opposite the Aconcagua, which is the highest mountain peak of the Andes, there rises at a height of 4,200 meters on a huge plateau a great statute of "Christ the Redeemer," which is also the name of the mountain pass on the Argentine-Chilean border that joins Las Cuevas (Argentina) and Los Andes (Chile). The giant bronze figure of the redeemed Christ, who embraces the cross, was built together by the troops of these two countries in a time of armed conflicts.
"In the Andes we will build a memorial ..."
What I have just described was well known by our Brother Mario and was – who knows – perhaps a real motive that for the Latin-American dream impressed deeply, which he had shared with the Deacon Jesús Pagán. This deacon who accompanied him Mario in Milwaukee during his last days before he died. They dreamed together, but the dying Mario spoke with this firm strength, which has its origin in a deep longing:
"Jesus (Págan), in the Andes we will build a memorial as a symbol of unity, of our nations and of our hearts, as a symbol of victory which couldn’t be gained by the politicians, but which will be won by the mother of God with the help of her tools."
In the fulfilling and following of this dream, the yearly pilgrimage may have been created. It is a clear fact, in any case, that they start every third Sunday in March. People who live in Mendoza – on the Argentine side – and others, who come from Viña del Mar, Quillota, Valparaiso and Santiago – on the Chilean side.
We, who start from Chile, begin at dawn with a communal prayer at the grave of Mario Hiriart, entrust him with our journey and tell him that we go with him. About 30 people participated on March 16 this year. But next year many pilgrims from many parts of the word are expected because Christ the Redeemer, who has struggled against the wind of such a long time, will celebrate its centenary there.
During every assent to the monument of Christ, the participants pray for peace between the two nations, but the peace in the heart of every single person is the most important condition. All prayer intentions, which people have left at the grave, decorated with flowers, all requests, all thanks, are included.
High on the rough mountaintop there is, in the base of the statue of Christ the Redeemer, a commemorative plaque with the picture of the Mother of God and words of Mario. People from foreign regions, who visit this place, are astonished at the story of this young man, who climbed to the top of the Andes. In fact, he had crossed the Cordilleras many times, but had also aimed at the heighth of holiness. In recent years somebody may have liked the plaque with the words of Mario so much that they stole it together with the picture of the Mother of God. Since 2002 here, at the height of 4,200 meters above sea level, a new, greater plaque is shining. It was blessed at the shrine in Bellavista and is now safely anchored in the mountains. The youth, who set out to the statue of Christ the Redeemer a few days before, in a foot pilgrimage, arrived some time before our group, pilgrims for one day. We make this pilgrimage to renew our apostolic strength, to dream once again and to remember all that Mario loved and for which he had sacrificed his life. It is now the heritage of those, who know him and also of the unknown visitors to this Christ in the gigantic Cordilleras.
"We pray with Mario for peace"
High on the top we pray the rosary together, with meditations written by Mario, celebrate holy mass and a new challenge in us grows to create peace. "We want to pray with Mario Hiriart for peace in our countries, Argentina and Chile, and universal prayer asking for peace in the world, especially for peace in Iraq and in the Middle East." That is the title of the booklet, from which we pray at the statue of Christ the Redeemer. When the two brother-countries, Argentina and Chile, weren’t able to settle a border dispute, they climbed up to this place, in order to pray at Christ the Redeemer very urgently. When the war about the Falkland-islands created open wounds, they went up to Christ the Redeemer in order to implore him. When peace in the Middle East was far away, we were deeply moved, and we climbed up to Christ the Redeemer in order to be refreshed. When we make efforts every day, during the whole year, to regain a supernatural view of our life, to climb up with our heart to God, to renew the trust of sons and daughters and the hope as allies and apostles, then we climb up in our mind and in reality to Christ ...
Translation: Gisela Hahne, Vallendar, Germany/Joan Biemert, New Franken,Wisconsin
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