Here is a translation of the greeting to the Pope given today by the archbishop of Aparecida and president of the Brazilian episcopal conference, Cardinal Raymundo Damasceno Assis.
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I welcome you with great pleasure to this National Shrine of Our Lady of Conception of Aparecida. Your pastoral visit to the Shrine of the Patroness of Brazil is characterized as an act of devotion to Our Lady. Your Holiness, there are thousands of pilgrims who visit this place blessed by the miraculous image, discovered in the Paraiba river in 1717, and venerated here. Coming on pilgrimage, they demonstrate their filial affection to the Virgin Mary, entrusting to her their needs, their sorrows and their gratitude. However, guided especially by hope, they come here to reinforce their faith and nourish their charity. When the Bishop of Rome, in turn, makes himself a pilgrim of Our Lady, all feel “confirmed in the truth of the faith” by him who “presides in charity over all the Churches,” guiding all, with firm gentleness, on the paths of sanctity.” (cf. Enthronement on the Roman Chair, p. 7).
This Shrine is an important national religious “icon.” On visiting it, we can say that you, Your Holiness, are visiting symbolically the whole of Brazil. It is a pilgrim’s visit, with which Your Holiness wished to entrust to Our Lady the great event of the forthcoming days that is the 28th World Youth Day. We all join in this prayer, so that the meeting of young people with the Successor of Peter will strengthen the faith and love of our young people for Jesus Christ and awaken in them all the missionary ardor that is translated in the Day’s motto: “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).
This Shrine, which receives you with great jubilation, has, beginning today, the grace of having received three Popes. It was dedicated by Blessed Pope John Paul II on July 4, 1980, and welcomed the Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, on May 12-13, 2007, on the occasion of the opening of the 5th General Conference of the Episcopate of Latin America and the Caribbean.
At the beginning of the celebration of this Solemn Mass, on behalf of the devotees of Our Lady of Aparecida, of this Archdiocese and of the whole of Brazil, I will give Your Holiness a replica of the image of Our Lady Aparecida, carved in wood by an artist of the region. According to scholars, the black color of this image, Holy Father, was probably caused by the river’s mud and the smoke of candles. But it has also been interpreted as a reference to the sufferings of the poor and excluded, especially of black people, in the course of the history of Brazil. To see it in the face of the Immaculate Mother of Our Lord awakens our Church continually to be committed to the poor, and that she also be poor to evangelize. Thus, free, she can serve Our Lord and his Gospel.
Through the image that will be given to Your Holiness, I ask Our Lady, in the name of the Brazilian people, to accompany you and bless your ministry. But we also wish that the thought, the affection and, above all, the prayers of the Pope, accompany the great Brazilian nation, so that, just and fraternal, she develops in peace. And that she accompany the Church in Brazil so that, faithful to her mission of proclaiming the Gospel and witnessing to it every day, she will always honor her history of faith and advance, amid the present challenges, confident in the divine presence and protection and in the maternal intercession of Our Lady of Aparecida, Queen and Patroness of Brazil.
Holy Father, you are very welcome in this Shrine that receives you with affection and filial reverence, as Successor of Peter, Bishop of Rome and Pastor of the whole Church.
[Translation by ZENIT]