Pope gives Brazil a saint and a warning
Bishops were encouraged to renew efforts to spread the gospel.
LOS ANGELES TIMES
SAO PAULO, Brazil -- Pope Benedict XVI on Friday gave this enormous Roman Catholic country its first native-born saint, canonizing a Franciscan monk credited with providing thousands of miracle cures.
The pope also used the occasion to remind followers to live their lives like saints, too, exhorting the faithful to resist popular media that glamorize sex and ridicule virginity.
"The world needs transparent lives, clear souls, pure minds that refuse to be perceived as mere objects of pleasure," the pope said.
Later, the pope urged Brazil's bishops to re-energize their efforts to spread the word of God but to do so sticking to orthodox church doctrine.
The toughly worded admonition laid out a path in marked contrast to the way the faith is often preached and practiced in Latin America. He told the bishops to center their teachings on Christ and not on political or ideological considerations.
The earlier ceremony to elevate Friar Antonio de Sant'Anna Galvao to sainthood represented a nod to popular local traditions. Hundreds of thousands of flag-waving Brazilians gathered in Campo de Marte, a grassy military airfield on the outskirts of Sao Paulo, to celebrate their new saint.
In this "age full of hedonism," the pope said, Galvao's life of sacrifice and prayer, his promotion of the family and ministry to the poor should serve as a model for Christians everywhere. His warning was directed toward the many Brazilians who engage in a sensual lifestyle that emphasizes sex and beauty over spiritual values.
Especially, he warned, "It is necessary to oppose those elements of the media that ridicule the sanctity of marriage and virginity before marriage."
Galvao, who lived and worked in Brazil in the 18th and early 19th centuries, built a religious retreat for women. He is regarded as the guardian of women in labor. Brazilian believers swallow so-called Galvao pills, small pieces of paper inscribed with a prayer in Latin, to be healed of various ailments.
These days thousands of "pills" are made by cloistered nuns who distribute them for free or for a donation. The prayer nowadays is addressed to the Virgin Mary.
Across town at the Monastery of Light, which Galvao founded and where he is buried, a steady stream of devotees placed messages on Galvao's tomb, kissed the feet of his statue, prayed for sick loved ones and, of course, acquired pills.
"I'm so thrilled that Friar Galvao is becoming a saint!" said Mara das Dores Cruz, 85, who said the pills helped cure her 14-year-old grandson's heart ailment. "It's about time Brazil has its own saint!"
One of the two miracles attributed to Galvao and certified by the Vatican, as is required for sainthood, involves the difficult birth of a baby to a woman with a deformed uterus. The woman, Sandra Grossi de Almeida, was told by doctors that she would not be able to carry her fetus to term. But after taking Galvao pills and praying to the dead monk, she gave birth without problems to a boy, Enzo.
The mother and son were featured at Friday's canonization Mass, bowing before the pope who embraced them. Enzo, 7, was dressed in white.
"It was so exciting," de Almeida told Brazilian television afterward. "My heart was in my throat."
Benedict celebrated late-afternoon vesper prayers with Brazil's 430 bishops inside the spiraled Cathedral of Sao Paulo, then delivered a long homily that reminded the assembled clergy of what he called their "true mission" -- the preaching of God's singular truth and "methodical evangelization" as the only way to save souls.