The journey of the relics of Pope John Paul II began Thursday with their transport from the mission of the papal nuncio in Mexico to the Basilica of Guadalupe, the first leg on the items' tour through the country, which will last until December.

Upon his arrival on Thursday at the Basilica, Cardinal Norberto Rivera celebrated a Mass accompanied by the auxiliary bishops of Mexico.

A sample of the blood of Karol Wojtyla (1920-2005), drawn a day before he died and placed in a glass vial, a wax figure of the Polish pope and various personal objects will be displayed at the Basilica until next Sunday.

On Aug. 28 the relics will begin their trek to the Cathedral of the diocese of Toluca, the capital of the central state of Mexico.

The relics arrived in Mexico from Rome on Aug. 17 and they will be taken to different dioceses over the next four months.

Mexico, the country with the second-largest number of Catholics in the world after Brazil, asked The Vatican to bring the relics here several months after John Paul II was beatified in Rome by his successor Pope Benedict XVI.

John Paul II visited Mexico on five occasions and on his last trip here in 1999 he presided at the so-called meeting with "representatives of all the generations of the century" in Mexico City's Azteca Stadium.