World Bulletin/News Desk
Church officials say at least 150,000 pilgrims have braved rain and cold conditions to see Pope Francis as he visited the National Shrine of Our Lady Aparecida in São Paulo state, a holy site for Roman Catholics.
He first travelled to the city of São José dos Campos by airplane and then on to Aparecida by helicopter, despite the inclement weather, as security chiefs had dismissed the idea of transporting the pontiff by car. There Pope Francis held the first official mass of the visit, which began on Monday. It was only the second public engagement of the Pope’s first international trip.
In his homily at the Basilica, Pope Francis said, in Portuguese, that “to some extent, everyone today, including our young people, feels attracted by the many idols which take the place of God and claim to offer hope – money, success, power, pleasure.”
The pontiff continued that “the pastors of God’s people, parents and educators were responsible for endowing young people with values to build a fairer, harmonious and brotherly country and world,” something with could stem from “three simple steps: keeping hope; allow oneself to be surprised by God; living in happiness.”
He also urged that young people be encouraged and viewed as a “powerful engine for the Church and society,” adding that they did not need only material possessions, but “immaterial values” which “lie at the heart of the people.”
The Archbishop of Aparecida, Raymundo Damasceno, presented the pontiff with a wooden replica of the image of Our Lady of Aparecida.
At the ceremony, all 1,100 priests and 50 bishops at the Basilica received Holy Communion, along with the 12,000 people who were allowed inside the National Shrine. Most of those who had come to Aparecida watched the service via giant screens erected around the Basilica. Despite the rain and cold, many said they were extremely happy to have caught a glimpse of the pontiff and taken part in the event.
The weather caused minor delays to proceedings as Brazil’s south and south-east regions witnessed temperatures far colder than usual, even during the Austral winter. Over 100 cities have seen snow and negative temperatures in the past days, including Curitiba, which saw its first snowfall in 38 years.
Returning to Brazil in 2017
Pope Francis reminded those listening that he had already been to the National Shrine in Aparecida, when Pope Benedict XVI visited Brazil in 2007, which he called a “great moment in the life of the Church.”
During the mass, the pontiff revealed that he would be returning to Brazil in 2017 for the 300th anniversary of the “appearance” of the Virgin Mary as Our Lady of Aparecida, the Patroness of Brazil – the image of whom, according to legend, was found by three fishermen in 1717 in the Paraíba River.
The Pope said: “I ask for a favour, gently; pray for me. I need it. May God bless you and Our Lady of Aparecida look after you. Until 2017, as I am going to return.”
The National Shrine is due to hold enormous celebrations to mark the anniversary.
As the pontiff left the Basilica, crowds of pilgrims and well-wishers chanted his name, waving flags.
After lunch, Pope Francis moved on to the nearby Chapel of the Twelve Apostles, where he prayed and venerated the image of Our Lady of Aparecida.
Mass held amid high security
As with the rest of the Pope’s visit, high security accompanied the trip to Aparecida, particularly after a “low power” explosive device had been found there during a security sweep on Sunday.
Both the police and the Vatican played down the event, saying that it posed no cause for concern. Police said the device had been planted away from the area visited by the Pope and the pilgrims, and that its potential for taking lives was minimal.
Police are also reported to have caught one individual with a knife at the event, but he was released without charge as he explained he was a fruit picker.
It is thought around 30,000 security personnel – a mixture of army and police troops – are reportedly on duty throughout the visit. Police did not report any protests during the event, which is being held in the rural city in São Paulo state – located midway between the metropolises of São Paulo and Rio.
Reports say that officials are reviewing security after a number of events – including the Pope’s motorcade being mobbed on Monday after it became stuck in one of Rio’s infamous traffic jams, and a two-hour suspension of Rio’s metro on Tuesday – meaning pilgrims crammed into buses and taxis.
Pope Francis is expected to arrive back in Rio on Wednesday evening to inaugurate a rehabilitation and treatment clinic for drug users at the São Francisco de Assis Hospital – named after Francis of Assisi, the saint after which many believe Pope Francis named himself when he began his papacy in March 2013.Güncelleme Tarihi: 25 Temmuz 2013, 09:48