Devotion to Brother Pedro Grows in Guatemala

New Saint’s Church Draws Thousands

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GUATEMALA CITY, SEPT. 17, 2002 ( Less than two months after the canonization of Brother Pedro de San José de Betancur, thousands visit his mausoleum in the church of St. Francis the Great, in Antigua Guatemala.

Since John Paul II canonized Brother Pedro, the church where he is buried is crowded with the faithful, a priest who works there said Monday.

Pilgrims and tourists arrive daily from all over the country, as well as from Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico. Sunday crowds are the biggest, Father Ernesto Palma said.

Faithful who were interviewed said they visit the church in thanksgiving for favors received through the saint’s intercession. Brother Pedro was born in the Canary Islands of Spain.

The pilgrims show their devotion in donations, candles and flowers. They wait in long lines to pray at Brother Pedro’s tomb.

«The people who attended the canonization also come to the church; there are thousands every day,» Father Palma said. He believes that the challenge for the Church now is to solidify the people’s fervor.

Father Palma said that the priests can scarcely cope on weekends. Seven hear confessions simultaneously. On Sundays about 20,000 to 30,000 people visit the church. The priest believes it’s a miracle attributable to the saint that so many pilgrims are returning to the sacrament of reconciliation.

Among the pilgrims is Raul Alfredo Vega, a devotee of Brother Pedro for 30 years. «He helped to cure me of an intestinal ailment,» said Vega. Since the canonization, Vega travels every Sunday from El Salvador to the church of St. Francis the Great.

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