An estimated crowd of about 75,000 Roman Catholics filed into the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum today for a celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the vision of the mother of Jesus Christ who appeared to a native outside Mexico City in 1531 and helped draw millions into the faith.
The free event -- which started about 3 p.m. -- featured Mexican singer and telenovela star Pedro Fernandez, Catholic recording artist Danielle Rose and Irish singer Dana Scallon.
The speakers included Archdiocese of Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez, Carl Anderson of the Knights of Columbus and Monsignor Eduardo Chavez, rector of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Mexico City, dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
Former Major League baseball standout Mike Piazza and current major league free agent Jeff Suppan also attended.
Catholics believe the Virgin Mary appeared before Saint Juan Diego in 1531 and it inspired the Virgin of Guadalupe movement. Saint Juan Diego wascanonized in 2002.
Los Angeles diocese spokesman Tod Tamberg praised the event.
"It went well,'' Tamberg said. "There was a lot of enthusiasm and devotion. Just what we needed in Los Angeles today.''
Tamberg said a highlight was when Gomez walked around the coliseum displaying a gold and glass container displaying to the crowd a small remnant of the almost 500-year-old cloak worn by Saint Juan Diego when he saw the vision of the Virgin Mary.
"It was very moving,'' Tamberg said.
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles ranks as the nation's most populous, with about 5 million adherents in Southern California, spread across 287 parishes in 120 cities.
"At certain times, the church gathers together for an event that provides the opportunity for the expression of faith in a very public way," Gomez said before the festival. "In this celebration we will renew our devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe and our commitment to continue the process of evangelization that she began on this continent nearly 500 years ago."
In 2007, the archdiocese's ``Rosary Bowl'' event in Pasadena drew about 40,000 people. The annual Mass in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe in East Los Angeles typically draws about 25,000 people.
The Knights of Columbus, the world's largest fraternal Catholic organization with 1.8 million members, co-sponsored the event.
"We strongly believe that Our Lady of Guadalupe has an important message to share with all of us and has an important role to play in unifying the faithful of this hemisphere,'' Anderson said.
More information is available online at www.guadalupecelebration.com.