VATICAN CITY, DEC. 14, 2008 ( Benedict XVI praised the devotion to Mary that Latin Americans carry in their hearts, especially their affection to her image as Our Lady of Guadalupe.

The Pope mentioned Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose feast was Friday, when he greeted the Spanish-speaking pilgrims in St. Peter's Square today to pray the midday Angelus.

The Holy Father invited the pilgrims to prepare "the birth of Jesus Christ, prince of peace [...] intensifying prayer, enlivening interior joy and dedicating themselves to a meditative listening of the Word of God, so as to afterward transmit this with simplicity to those around you."

"I entrust this beautiful task to the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary," he added, "who is so present during these days in the heart of the beloved Latin American nations with her image of Guadalupe."

According to officials from Mexico City, on the feast day, more than six million people visited the basilica that houses the image of the Patronness of the Americas.