In a briefing with journalists at the WYD Media Center in Brazil, Fr. Federico Lombardi director of the Holy See Press Office described the Pope’s visit to the Shrine of Aparecida as a “very important moment”.
While reminding those present that the Holy Father’s predecessors also made similar visits to Marian shrines, Fr. Lombardi said that the visit to Aparecida was a continuation of the Marian devotions of the Popes.
“In Aparecida, for Pope Francis, there is a singular importance for him as well as the Conference of Bishops that were present there,” Fr. Lombardi said. “This pilgrimage was also meant as a consecration of the Pope for World Youth Day.”
Regarding the Mass, the Vatican spokesman stated that over 200,000 faithful were present inside and outside the Basilica. There were also thousands lined up on the streets leading to the Shrine. Also present at the celebration was an ecumenical delegation that included Muslim, Jewish and Orthodox Church representatives.
Fr. Lombardi also recalled the joy felt by many pilgrims after the Holy Father ended his address from the balcony saying, “I will see you again in 2017”.
“As you know, it will be the 300th anniversary of the discovery of the image of the Madonna [of Aparecida],” Fr. Lombardi said. “Now, all are hoping that the that the Holy Father will return in 2017 for the anniversary.”
After the Mass, the Holy Father visited the Bom Jesus Seminary where he blessed a statue of St. Frei Calvao who was canonized by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in 2007. He then had lunch with the seminarians and greeted various groups, including a group of nuns who, Fr. Lombardi noted, were extremely excited to see the Pope and have their picture taken with him. “Towards the end, when the Pope was ending the meeting, he told them, ‘I feel like I am Daniel in the lion’s den,’ Fr. Lombardi recalled.
Pope Francis also met with a group of police officers and other groups that had the opportunity to have their picture taken with him.
“The Pope did not rest at all, he dedicated his whole time in greeting these different groups. This is striking; the energy he has for the total continuity to his commitments,” the Vatican spokesman noted.