300th anniversary of Brazil's patroness marked this week
During the World Youth Day in Rio, on July 24, 2013, Pope Francis went on a pilgrimage to the shrine of Aparecida. “I had the joy and the grace,” he remembered, of praying at the feet of the Madonna, “entrusting my pontificate to her.”
The Bishop of Rome added that he would have loved to go back to Brazil for this jubilee. However, “the life of a pope isn’t simple,” he explained, and he encouraged Brazilians to continue being joyful, to let themselves be surprised by God, and to hold on to hope.
In “compensation” for the pope’s absence at the celebrations, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, the retired prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, was designated as special envoy of the pope to represent him at Aparecida.
The celebrations of the 3rd centennial of Our Lady of Aparecida, patroness of Brazil, took place from from October 10-12 at the National Shrine of Aparecida in the southern Brazilian state of São Paulo.
This title of Our Lady goes back to an occurrence in 1717, when fishermen cast their nets into a river and pulled out a dark-colored statue of Mary, which was missing its head. When they cast their nets a second time, they found the head. They cast their nets once more, and pulled in an abundant catch of fish.
The shrine of Aparecida is the largest Marian shrine in the world. It is visited each year by more than 7 million pilgrims. The liturgical feast of Our Lady of Aparecida is October 12.
The pope has a special link to Aparecida because 10 years ago the bishops of all Latin America gathered in the city for their fifth continent-wide conference. The future Pope Francis took part in the Aparecida Conference and was chosen by his peers to lead the committee that would draft the concluding document for the conference.
That document, referred to as the Aparecida Document, has come to be seen as a road map the entire Church can use.
Learn more with this backgrounder: The Aparecida Document: What you need to know
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