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Cardinal López Romero presided over the XXXIV anniversary of the Coronation of La Pequeñica

Cardinal Lopez Romero
The ceremony was presided over by Cardinal Cristóbal López Romero of Almeria.

By Francisco Castillo

Last Saturday, on the occasion of the 34th anniversary of the pontifical coronation of Nuestra Señora de los Desamparados del Buen Retiro del Saliente, an unforgettable evening was held, presided over by Cardinal Cristóbal López Romero of Almeria. The poster by Felipe Herreros Rodero, the new Sanctuary Bulletin and twelve awards were also presented.


While the soft tones of the sunset embellished – even more if possible – the arcades of the centenary Cloister of the Diocesan Shrine of El Saliente, the guitar chords flowed through the galleries among the crowds that filled each of the corridors. Natalia Carrillo Reche, who acted as experienced mistress of ceremonies throughout the evening, welcomed the pilgrims. Minutes before, it was the rector, Antonio Jesús María Saldaña Martínez, who received the most eminent of the Almerian pilgrims: Cristóbal López Romero. This Salesian religious, whom Pope Francis named a cardinal just two years after entrusting him with the archbishopric of Rabat, carries out his sacred ministry in the midst of one of the most cosmopolitan Islamic societies in Morocco.
After being received as required by the canons and praying for a few minutes before the Blessed Sacrament, he was able to see at first hand some of the recently restored rooms, such as the Hall of the Crystals and the Library. With his characteristic bonhomie, he accepted to write an affectionate dedication in the Golden Book and admirably related the invocations of the Forsaken and that of the Help of Christians proper to his Congregation.
He also recalled the last time he had made a pilgrimage to the Roel. He said: “Forty years ago I came with my parents, to get to know all this and to pray to Our Lady”. As in the past, he wanted to come on a nice family pilgrimage with his relatives. Among them is the current parish priest of Huércal-Overa: Francisco Jerónimo Ruiz Gea.


The starting point was when Francisco José Castillo Caparrós finally unveiled the painting that is the star of this year’s poster. It is a beautiful panel by the artist Felipe Hereros Rodero who, from his studio in his home town of Villanueva del Arzobispo, has been developing a successful career for more than ten years and is now beginning his international expansion. He is a painter who tries to respond to classical schemes with a modern and religiously unctioned style. His production, mostly of sacred art, is increasingly valued and the Parish Church of Santiago Apostle in Velez-Blanco already has one of his canvases.
The panel itself shows the bust of the Pequeñica, surrounded by the golden crown of 1988. It has a delicate background of pinkish tints. As María del Carmen García López pointed out at the time of its presentation: “Eternally floating over the wide, impressive and infinite panorama of the mountains that embrace it, tinged with pink and white, full of almond blossom. Aroma of basil, which recalls old friends and moments lived in pilgrimage through this giant reptile of the wadis that lead us to its feet. The Moon and the Sun next to Our Lady, representing perfection, the sacred marriage between heaven and earth”.


From pictorial art to the art of guarding one’s own memory, with the presentation of the first issue of the Bulletin of the Diocesan Shrine of the Saliente. It is an interesting initiative which aims to bring together all the events since last August, as well as compiling the most important texts produced during the year and offering contributions alluding to the Pequeñica.
Antonio Pardo Díaz was in charge of presenting it to society, as a member of the Editorial Board made up of Juan Navarrete Ortega, Miguel Ángel Reche Berbel and Francisco José Castillo Caparrós. As the presenter himself said: “It is born with the will to live, renewing itself each year as a precious testimony of all pilgrims to our Mother of the Saliente”. With guest signatures such as the historian Miguel Ángel Alonso and the poet José Antonio Sáez, the self-confidence of the young Juan Nicolás Ortega Carrillo was a surprise. At the Cardinal’s request, he publicly read his article narrating Our Lady’s request for peace to all her children.
The thick Bulletin, profusely illustrated with photographs and whose cover is a reproduction of the poster by Felipe Herreros Rodero, delighted everyone. A large number of them were sold out almost immediately, reflecting the interest aroused and the high volume of events on the agenda of the Diocesan Sanctuary of the Saliente. Several companies from Alboja have collaborated in the publication of the book.


Within the splendid artistic display of the evening, music also played a leading role. The Linarense group “Plomo y Plata” presented an album of two songs, composed and sung by themselves, in homage to La Pequeñica and entitled “Reina de Albox” (Queen of Albox). As one of the members of the group, Pedro Moreno García, explained: “We feel so welcome, so happy with the Virgin… that we are at home and, for this reason, we wanted to give her these two songs”. With genuine affection, they thanked the rector for his efforts with a beautiful picture.
Some tears came to the surface when, while a touching video made by Miguel Ángel Reche Berbel and María del Saliente García Segovia was projected, one of the songs was interpreted. Quickly learned by the pilgrims, it was spontaneously hummed and received a well-deserved round of applause. Since that day, the CD’s with the songs can be purchased at the Shrine itself.


One of the most moving moments was reached during the presentation of the “Patronage Medals” to the twelve people or institutions that have stood out this past year in the promotion of the devotion to La Pequeñica. All of them received the award from the hands of the Cardinal and pronounced some intense words of gratitude.
The parishes of Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación de Vélez-Rubio, San Isidoro de Chirivel and San Bartolomé de los Cerricos de Oria received their awards from the hands of their parish priests Javier Ruiz Pérez and José Rubén Fernández Pelegrina. Also the Town Councils of Chirivel, from the Deputy Mayor Paqui Zamora Gutiérrez, of Vélez-Rubio, from the Deputy Mayor Juan José Parra García, and the Town Council of Oria from its own Mayor, Marcos Reche Galera. Particular emotion was experienced when the Guardia Civil, in the hands of the lieutenant – chief of Albox Erick Rafael Mazón Lara collected his distinction; before the complicit gaze of all the district post chiefs in dress uniform. There were also medals for the Desamparados Mountain Sports Club, which were collected by Juan Pedro Rubio and Diego Carrillo Granero; as well as for the Neighbourhood Association of the Loma de San Francisco de Albox, from María de los Dolores Salas Águila. The musical group Plomo y Plata, together with the Civil Protection of Vélez Rubio and the mayordomo de andas emérito, Antonio Gallego Uclés, received the same award.
When he received his award, Antonio Garrido Colomina, parish priest of Santa María in the town of Cazorla, he made the pilgrims laugh because of the grace with which he explained his devotion to the Pequeñica and gave a reproduction of a 19th century canvas of the Virgen del Saliente which is kept in this town in Jaén.

To close the evening in the Cloister, Cardinal López Romero took the floor and began his speech with the Arabic greeting of his people in Rabat. He recalled his roots in Almeria and how they have accompanied him through the different countries that have been the depositories of his sacred ministry. He praised that “seeing so many people, all with different responsibilities and backgrounds, I see that you are doing what Pope Francis wants. A Church going out, ready to bear witness to Jesus”.
With his speech, elegant and pedagogical at the same time, he wanted to channel the pilgrims towards the true devotion to Our Lady and ended by asserting: “If there are so many devotees of Our Lady of the Forsaken, there cannot be homeless among us”. Then, followed by all, he officiated a solemn Salve in the temple and imparted the solemn blessing. With much recollection, he enjoyed a few minutes of silent prayer in the chapel where the sacred image is venerated.
A cocktail party, held on the lower terrace of the esplanade of the Roel, was the finishing touch to this wonderful evening which is celebrated every 7th August in the Diocesan Sanctuary of the Saliente. This event marks the beginning of the great festivities in honour of Our Lady of the Forsaken of Buen Retiro del Saliente Coronada. Next Saturday 27th August, the Cloister will be filled again for the II Exaltation of the Pilgrimage which will be given by Pilar Alfonso, wife of the well-known businessman Francisco Martínez – Cosentino.



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