The Holy Father has appointed His Eminence Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for Bishops and president emeritus of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, as his special envoy at the celebrations of the third centenary of the finding of the statue of Our Lady of Aparecida, patroness of Brazil. The event will take place at the National Shrine of Aparecida from 10 to 12 October 2017.
The Holy Father in 2013 visited several cities in Brazil, in particular Rio de Janeiro, to preside at the 28th World Youth Day. As part of his visit, he celebrated Mass on July 24, 2013 at the shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida, to whom he consecrated the country of Brazil.
On September 3, 2016, Pope Francis blessed a bronze image of the Virgin of Aparecida that was placed in the Vatican Gardens. The statue in the Vatican Gardens depicts the moment of the discovery of the image, when in 1717 three fishermen responsible for providing fish for the banquet of the Count of Assumar, who intended to stop in the village of Giaratinguetá during a journey. The three fishermen went to the river Paraíba, and after various unsuccessful attempts they cast their nets in the area of Porto Itaguacu, and one of them found entangled in them a statue of the Virgin, without the head. They cast the nets again and this time brought up the head. Shortly after the nets were filled with fish.
For 15 years the image was kept in the house of one of the fishermen, Felipe Pedroso, and the neighbors went there to pray the Rosary. Devotion to the image began to spread and several people who had prayed before the image affirmed that they had been granted the grace they asked for. Veneration of Our Lady of Aparecida subsequently spread throughout Brazil.