La Aparecida

May 9, 2007

In October of 1717, Dom Pedro de Almedida, Count of Assumar, was on his way to the state of Minas Gerais from Sao Paulo. He would have to pass by Guarantinqueta, a small city in the Paraiba river valley. The people of Guarantinqueta decided to hold a great feast to honor the Count, and a lot of fish would be needed.

However, it was not the season for fish and the water seemed deserted. After many hours of catching nothing, the fishermen were very depressed. Among the fishermen were three men who always prayed to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception — Domingos Garcia, Joco Alves, and Felipe Pedroso. Before going out to fish, they asked God to help then in this difficult task, to find enough fish at this time when no fish were available. Felipe knelt and prayed, along with his companions, “Mother of God and our Mother, we need to find fish!”

Just before they were ready to give up, Joco cast his net one more time near the Port of Itaguagu in hopes that they would find fish. However, they found a body of a statue! Joco called out in surprise, “Domingo! Felipe! Come and see what we have!” They cast the net one more time and brought up the head of the statue!

They very carefully washed the statue and saw that it was Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. They wrapped her in some cloths and continued to fish. Domingo commented, “We worked all night and have found no fish!”

Felipe had a proposition: “Let’s continue to fish with faith in the Virgin Aparecida (who appeared).” From this moment on, the net became very full with fish. This was the first miracle of Our Lady of Aparecida.

It is not known how the small (less than three feet high) statue came to rest at the bottom of the river, but its artist is known, Frei Agostino de Jesus, a “carioca” monk from Sao Paulo who created artistic clay sculptures.The image was made around 1650 and must have stayed submerged in the river for many years because it lost its original polychromy. The image is now a brilliant dark brown color, and is covered by a stiff mantle of richly embroidered thick cloth, allowing only her face and hands to be seen. She wears on her head the imperial crown with precious stones with which she was crowned in 1904. In 1930 Pope Pius XII proclaimed her principal patroness of Brazil.

Pope begins voyage to Brazil

Rome, May. 9, 2007 ( – Pope Benedict XVI left Rome this morning, beginning his apostolic voyage to Brazil. He is scheduled to arrive in Sao Paulo at 4:30 (local time) this afternoon.

The Holy Father left Rome’s Fiumicino airport at 9 in the morning, boarding an Alitalia flight, in a Boeing 777, that will take over 12 hours to cover a distance of nearly 6,000 miles.

On his arrival at the Sao Paulo/Guarulhos airport, the Pontiff will be formally welcomed by Brazilian Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva. After the short welcome ceremony there, he will continue by helicopter to the Campo de Marte air field outside the city, where he will again receive greetings from local public officials.

From there the Pope will travel in an open car to the Sao Bento monastery, where he will be lodged during his stay in Sao Paulo. He is expected to make a brief appearance to address the public from a balcony there on Wednesday evening.

During most of his stay in Brazil the Pope will deliver his public speeches in Portuguese, the national language. However on Sunday, when he opens the 5th general assembly of the Latin American bishops’ conference, CELAM, he will speak in Spanish.

The Vatican delegation accompanying the Pontiff is composed of 31 people: 4 cardinals, 3 bishops, 5 priests, and 19 laymen. The cardinals making the trip are the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone ; the prefect for the Congregation for Bishops, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re; the prefect of the Congregation for Clergy, Cardinal Claudio Hummes; and the prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins.

Cardinals Re and Hummes will be acting as co-presidents for the CELAM meeting. Cardinal Hummes, a native of Brazil, will be traveling into very familiar territory; he is the former Archbishop of Sao Paulo.


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