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from issue no. 04 - 2007

Our Lady Aparecida

Year 1717. From the waters of the river Paraíba a statuette of the Virgin covered in mud emerged. It was the beginning of the devotion of an entire people

by Stefania Falasca

The Basilica of Our Lady Aparecida, 
in Aparecida do Norte (State of São Paulo), in Brazil

The Basilica of Our Lady Aparecida, in Aparecida do Norte (State of São Paulo), in Brazil

«Our Lady Aparecida!
In this moment so solemn, so exceptional, I want to open up before you, O Mother, the heart of this people, in the midst of which you wanted to dwell in such a very special way [...]. I wish to open up before you the heart of the Church and the heart of the world to which this Church was sent by your Son. I wish to open up my heart also to you [...]. Mary! I greet you and say “Hail” to you! In this sanctuary, where the Church of Brazil loves you, venerates you and invokes you as Aparecida. As revealed and given to her in a particular way! As its Mother and Patron Saint! [...] As model of all the souls that possess true wisdom and, at the same time, the simplicity of the child and that inward trust that overcomes all weakness and all suffering!».
(Prayer of John Paul II in the Basilica of Aparecida, 4 July 1980)

The history
It was 1554. A group of Jesuits led by Father José de Anchieta arrived in São Paulo with the desire to transmit the treasure of the Christian faith to the Tupi and Guaraní Indios. They founded São Paulo, which became an important evangelization center. The missionaries taught with great fervor devotion to the Virgin Mary, emphasizing the role that she, as Mother of God, had in the work of the redemption. Every afternoon there was catechism and the Holy Rosary was recited. In many villages and cities confraternities of the Rosary spread, processions and novenas were made.
1717 came. The governor of the harbor office of São Paulo, don Pedro de Almeida, was in voyage towards Minas Gerais and had to pass through the Valle del Paraíba. The local fishermen were asked to provide the greatest possible quantity of fish to feed the governor and his company.
The fishermen, among whom Domingos Garcia, João Alves and Felipe Pedroso, took their canoes, went to the Paraíba river and began to fish. They cast their nets over and over again but did not catch anything. They sailed for approximately six kilometers along the river, as far as the port of Itaguassú. They cast the nets again but the only thing they caught was a headless statuette covered in mud. When they cast the nets again its head appeared and they discovered that it was the image of Our Lady of the Conception. The fishermen returned home with a large haul and stunned by all that had happened. Felipe Pedroso kept the image in his house for about six years and in 1733 he gave it to his son. He had an oratory built and placed the image of the Virgin there.
Soon extraordinary prodigies began to happen and the fame of the Virgin spread spontaneously. The number of pilgrims who came from the nearby villages increased greatly and the small chapel of Itaguassú was not large enough to contain them anymore. So the vicar of the parish of Guaratinguetá had a larger chapel constructed in the Morro dos Coqueiros. The shrine was inaugurated on 26 June 1745 with the invocation of Our Lady Aparecida. The number of pilgrims continued to increase and the devotion spread all over Brazil. Many churches and chapels were dedicated to Our Lady Aparecida and everywhere she was invoked as Mother and Patron Saint. In 1852 a new construction was built and in 1888 yet another. In 1904 the image was solemnly crowned and in 1908 the shrine was promoted to minor basilica. On 16 June 1930 Pope Pius XI declared Our Lady Aparecida Patron Saint of Brazil. In 1946 the construction of the present basilica began. In 1967, to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the recovery of the image from the waters of the river, Pope Paul VI sent a gold rose that was placed at the feet of the throne. On 4 July 1980, the actual basilica, barely less large than Saint Peter’s in the Vatican, was consecrated by John Paul II.

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