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from issue no. 04 - 2007

«Mary in no way hampers the immediate contact of believers with Christ, indeed she facilitates it»

This is a phrase from Lumen gentium quoted by John Paul II in the homily of the Mass of Consecration of the Basilica of Nossa Senhora da Conceição Aparecida, 4 July 1980. We print the beginning of that homily

Homily of John Paul II

John Paul II during the visit to Aparecida 4 July 1980

John Paul II during the visit to Aparecida 4 July 1980

«Long live the Mother of God and ours, conceived without sin! Long live the Immaculate Virgin, Our Lady Aparecida!»
Since I set foot on Brazilian soil, in the various places through which I have passed, I have heard this canticle. It is, in the sincerity and simplicity of its words, a cry of the soul, a greeting, an invocation full of filial devotion and confidence, to her who, being the real Mother of God, was given to us by her Son Jesus at the last moment of his life (cf. Jn 19, 26) to be our Mother.
In no other place does this song assume such significance and such intensity as in this place where the Virgin, over two centuries ago, had an extraordinary meeting with the Brazilian people.
Since then, the anxieties of this people rightly turn to this place; since then, the Catholic heart of Brazil beats here. This is the goal of incessant pilgrimages from all over the country and it is, as it has been called, the «spiritual Capital of Brazil».
This is a particularly moving and happy moment of my Brazilian pilgrimage, this one in which, with you who represent here the whole Brazilian people, I have my first meeting with Our Lady Aparecida.
Preparing spiritually for this pilgrimage to Aparecida, I read with religious attention the simple and enchanting story of the image we venerate here. The fruitless toil of the three fishermen in search of fish in the waters of Paraíba, in that far-off year of 1717. The unexpected discovery of the body, and then of the head, of the little ceramic image, blackened by the mud. The abundant catch that followed the discovery. The devotion, which began immediately, to Our Lady of Conception as represented by that brown statue, affectionately called the “Aparecida” (the one that appeared). The abundant graces of God for those who invoke the Mother of God here.
From the primitive and crude oratory – the “wooden altar” of the old documents – to the chapel that replaced it and the various successive additions, up to the old basilica in 1908, the material temples that have arisen here are always the work and symbol of the faith of the Brazilian people and its love of the Blessed Virgin.
The pilgrimages in which, in the course of the centuries, persons of all social classes and from the most diverse and distant regions of the country have taken part, are well known. Last year there were over five million, five hundred thousand pilgrims who passed here. What were the ancient pilgrims seeking? What are the pilgrims of today seeking? Precisely what they were seeking on the day, more or less distant, of baptism: faith and the means of nourishing it. They seek the sacraments of the Church, particularly reconciliation with God and eucharistic nourishment. And they set off again strengthened, and grateful to Our Lady the Mother of God and ours.
As graces and spiritual benefits multiply in this place, Our Lady of Conception Aparecida is solemnly crowned in 1904, and exactly 50 years ago in 1930, is proclaimed the main Patroness of Brazil. Later, in 1967, it is the good fortune of my venerated predecessor Paul VI to grant this Shrine the Golden Rose, wishing by this gesture to honour the Virgin and this sacred place and to stimulate Marian devotion.
And we come to our day. In response to the need for a larger and more adequate temple to meet the needs of the increasing number of pilgrims, here is the bold project of a new basilica. Years of incessant work for the construction of the imposing edifice. Today, after considerable difficulties have been overcome, the splendid reality that we contemplate.

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