WILDING of a new has ilica at the Shrine of Our Lady of Gaudalupe will begin next year, it is announced by Mgr. Gullezmo Schulemburg, director of the Mexico shrine. He said that in spite of efforts to save the 200-year-old building, the front walls had sunk more than 10 feet and were still sinking.
More than f400,000 had been spent over six years placing reinforced concrete pillars underneath the building. The chief engineer for the project said: "It might be possible to save the basilica, but it would cost many times the amount already spent in repairs, and there is no guarantee that the levelling would be permanent."
Other engineers have predicted that the building cannot last more than 10 years — even after restoration. They have also expressed fears that the basilica might collapse. In addition, the present building is far too small to accommodate the crowds that flock there, Mgr. Schulemburg said.
It is generally agreed that a new building is necessary, but many churchmen, including Bishop Mendez Arceo of Cuernavaca, have declared that the proposed building — costing from £5 million to £6 million is far too expensive. "It is offensive to the poverty of the great majority of our pilgrims," Bishop Mendez said. The new basilica will be built near the old one on Tepeyac Hill, where Our Lady appeared to the Indian Juan Diego in 1531. In pre-Colombian times Tepeyac Hill was the site of the shrine to the American Indian goddess Tonantzin, the "mother of the gods."