The image of Our Lady of Guadeloupe, which reproduces a vision seen by an Indian woman in Mexico shortly after the Spanish Conquest, has been brought to Britain by Roman Catholics in the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child. It will cover almost the whole of England and Wales in the next two months.
The Virgin in this guise is regarded as the patroness of unborn children. For devout Catholic opponents of abortion there is no difference in principle between the human sacrifices of the Aztecs (which the Spanish conquest brought to an end) and legalised abortion in Western countries.
Just as Christianity brought an end to the one, so the supporters of this icon hope it will bring an end to the other. The issue has become a battleground within the Catholic Church, where right-wingers believe that it should take precedence over almost all others, while the hierarchy in this country is less keen to see it dominate perceptions of the Church.
John Salvi, the young American Catholic who was recently charged with shooting dead two receptionists at abortion clinics in Boston, has said that if acquitted, he wishes to become a Catholic priest. If found guilty, he hopes to be executed.
Photograph: Edmund SykesReuse content