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LIMA Peru — If we’re confused, facing difficulties or struggling with sin, we can look to Mary to help guide us to the arms of her Son, Pope Francis said Saturday during a Marian celebration in Trujillo, Peru.

Quoting a homily by St. Bernard, the Pope said: “You who feel far away from terra firma, dragged down by the waves of this world, in the midst of storms and tempests: Look to the Star and call upon Mary.”

“She shows us the way home. She brings us to Jesus, who is the Gate of Mercy,” he said Jan. 20.

The Pope also drew attention to a “scourge” of violence against women, decrying “many situations of violence that are kept quiet behind so many walls.”

“I ask you to fight against this source of suffering by calling for legislation and a culture that repudiates every form of violence.”

Speaking of the Immaculate Virgin of the Gate of Otuzco, a popular Marian devotion in Peru, Pope Francis declared her, “Our Lady of the Gate, ‘Mother of Mercy and Hope.’”

“Our Lady, who in centuries past showed her love for the children of this land when, placed above a gateway, she defended and protected them from the threats that afflicted them,” awakened the love of all Peruvians, the Pope said.

“Mary continues to defend us and point out the gate that opens for us the way to authentic life, to the Life that does not pass away. She walks beside every one of her children, in order to lead them home. She accompanies us all the way to the Gate that gives Life, for Jesus does not want anyone to remain outside, in the cold.”

The Immaculate Virgin of the Gate of Otuzco, also called the Virgin of La Puerta, is a popular Marian devotion of the Church in Peru. A shrine dedicated to the image is built on the location where a gate to Otuzco, an area outside Trujillo, used to stand.  

It is believed that, in the 17th century, when her image was placed at the entrance to the city of Trujillo, she miraculously protected it from pirate attack. Her feast day is celebrated on Dec. 15.

Francis met with people gathered in Trujillo’s “Plaza de Armas” for a Marian celebration. In addition to delivering a short message, the Pope prayed before the image of the Virgin of La Puerta. The encounter also included a prayer and a reading from the first chapter of Luke.

Today, the square has “become an open-air shrine,” the Pope said, “where all of us want to let our Mother look upon us with her maternal and tender gaze.”

“If we consider that wherever there is a community, wherever there is life and hearts longing to find reasons to hope, to sing and to dance, to long for a decent life … there is the Lord, there we find his Mother, and there, too, the example of all those saints who help us to remain joyful in hope.”

He said that the many images and titles for Mary, of which there are many in Peru, are a sign that “in her heart all races find a place.” He also stressed that Mary is a mother “who knows the heart of her Peruvian children from the north and from so many other places.”

“How much I desire that this land, which clings to the Mother of Mercy and Hope, can abound in God’s goodness and tender love and bring it everywhere,” he stated.

“For there is no better medicine, dear brothers and sisters, to cure many wounds than a heart that has known mercy, than a heart that is compassionate before sorrow and misfortune.”

During the message, Francis also asked those present to think of their earthly mothers and grandmothers, explaining that love for Mary should lead us to feel appreciation and gratitude for all women.