ROME — Pope Francis sent a letter to the president of Brazil, apologizing for his inability to visit in 2017 and encouraging the leader’s attention to the country’s social issues.
“Since in his letter President Temer made reference to his efforts to confront the social problems of the country, the Pope underlined that aspect and encouraged him to work for the promotion of the country’s poorest people,” the Vatican press office said April 4, confirming a letter the pope sent a few days before.
President Michael Temer invited Pope Francis to visit Brazil for the 300th anniversary of a Marian apparition known as Our Lady of Aparecida.
The story behind the apparition involves a clay statue of Mary Immaculate that was caught by three fishermen in October 1717 in preparation for a feast dedicated to royalty passing through the town.
Guarantinqueta, a small city along the Paraiba River, was expecting to receive the Count of Assumar on his travels to a gold mining site in Vila Rica.
The feast required a vast amount of fish, but it was not the season for it and weather conditions proved to be a challenge. After a night of fishing, the men caught nothing.
Having prayed to our Lady of Immaculate Conception, the fishermen first brought up the body of the statue and then the head. After the statue was brought up, the men decided to pray with faith to “Nossa Senhora da Conceição Aparecida” – which means Our Lady of the Appeared Conception. Their nets suddenly became very full, and the catch has been considered a miracle.
During an inauguration of a statue of Aparecida at the Vatican Gardens in 2016, Pope Francis said he did not know when he would be able to visit Aparecida in Brazil again “but at least I will have her very close, here.” The new statue was designed by a Brazilian artist and depicted Our Lady of Aparecida next to the three men with full nets of fish.
The pope said Our Lady of Aparecida is close to the heart of the working class, “especially those who need work, education, those who are deprived of dignity.”
He encouraged President Temer for the efforts made to resolve the county’s social issues, reiterating Aparecida’s closeness to the poor.
President Temer was brought into office last August when his predecessor, Dilma Rousseff, was impeached from office for an alleged abuse of power. Brazil’s economy has been in its worst recession since the 1980s; inflation increased by 10.7 percent and unemployment increased to 9 percent in 2015. Prices for Brazilian oil, iron ore, and soya also dropped.
Since his induction into office, Temer has aimed to reduce the country’s spending and the level of public debt.