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Benedict 16 dies: how was the pope’s visit to Brazil in 2007


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The first canonization of a saint born in Brazil, the consolidation of the name of Jorge Mario Bergoglio within the Church and gestures of sympathy that ended up winning over the Brazilian faithful: according to reports heard by BBC News Brasil, this was the result of the only visit by the Pope Benedict XVI to Brazil, May 9-13, 2007.

The pope emeritus died this Saturday (31) at the age of 95.

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On that visit, Bento 16 had appointments in São Paulo, Aparecida and Guaratinguetá. He celebrated Masses, met with young people, visited a drug recovery farm and opened the 5th Celam (General Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Episcopate).

The final text of that conference, known as the Document of Aparecida, was coordinated by the then Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires and president of the Argentine Episcopal Conference, Jorge Mario Bergoglio — now Pope Francis.

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“The invitation for Benedict XVI to visit Brazil was made by Cardinal Dom Claudio Hummes, then Archbishop of São Paulo, at the end of 2005”, says Father Michelino Roberto, of the Archdiocese of São Paulo.

“At the time, I was studying and living in Rome and accompanied Cardinal Hummes at the audience where the invitation was formalized. That was the first occasion on which I had direct and personal contact with Benedict XVI.”

“Benedict XVI came to Brazil mainly because of the conference in Aparecida. And in this conference the then Cardinal Bergoglio was responsible for drafting the document and played an important role in moderating the discussions”, contextualizes Vaticanist Filipe Domingues, who accompanied the main events of the 2007 papal visit. “This shows how in the Church nothing happens by chance, nothing happens suddenly.”

Domingues points out that the bridge between the two popes was paved in this episode. “A lot of people think they have nothing to do with each other, but in fact there is a very strong line of continuity, although with different styles, approaches and emphases. There is complete harmony.”

In CELAM’s opening speech, Benedict addressed bishops who, in the past, had a certain reservation with him. During the pontificate of John Paul II (1920-2005), then-Cardinal Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. His quarrels, therefore, with Latin American bishops and priests were not few, mainly due to disagreements regarding Liberation Theology, a Christian current that preaches the option for the poor.

Bento won over the audience with his conciliatory speech. “He said, for example, that neither capitalism nor Marxism found a way to create just structures that would put an end to inequalities and social problems in Latin America”, recalls Domingues.

“He underscored that it was not through these ideologies that the Church would promote life, nor through Marxism that destroys individual freedoms, nor through unbridled capitalism that destroys personal dignity. He clearly said that they were two problematic systems.”

charisma surprised

“Pope Benedict XVI arrived in the country tied up by the image he left as Cardinal Ratzinger, always described as a serious person and too busy with the Doctrine of the Faith. In this sense, it was inevitable to contrast him with his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, whose empathy and affection with the masses was remarkable”, comments Abbot Matthias Tolentino Braga, the pope’s official host at the Monastery of São Bento.

By pre-established protocols, he was supposed to wave to the public in Largo de São Bento, from the balcony, only three times. But, moved and excited by the cries of the crowd, he did not resist and appeared to the faithful at least ten times.

“Benedict XVI surprised everyone by making an effort to interact with the crowds that flocked to meet him, even if his arms lacked breadth and his look and smile were shy and silent. loved and so, he loved everyone”, completes the abbot.

“Vatican security has placed many impediments and restrictions so that the pope can appear in it. [na sacada]. There was an impression that he really only went there once, without speaking — and therefore, a sound system was not organized, for example”, recalls journalist Rafael Alberto Alves dos Santos, who at the time worked at Mitra Arquidiocesana from São Paulo and was part of the organizing committee for Bento’s visit.

“It turns out that much more faithful than we imagined practically camped in front of the monastery and stayed there all the days that the Pope was in São Paulo. It was a very noisy group, who called insistently for the Pope and, right on the first day, to go to the balcony. And he did it a lot of times afterwards. By his will. Because he heard people calling for him and asked to go there.”

“After the visit, the most frequent comments I heard from people concerned the breaking of the paradigm that Benedict 16 was not a charismatic pope”, adds Father Roberto.

São Paulo had only received a pope once, on the first of three apostolic trips made by John Paul II to Brazil, in 1980. On that occasion, the Monastery of São Bento, a four-hundred-year-old institution in the center of the city, ended up being passed over in favor of the Monastery of São Paulo. of São Geraldo, in Morumbi, to host the pontiff.

When Benedict 16 confirmed the visit, it was the turn of the Benedictines from the center — including to honor the namesake. Thus, on December 12, 2006, the abbey received a delegation from the Vatican to verify the conditions and make requests to assist the illustrious guest.

It was requested that the entire papal entourage had individual rooms, that Benedict’s rooms had three spaces – bedroom with bathroom, living room and an office – and that the menu did not include fish or seafood. In five months of renovation, the spaces were left gleaming for the pope and his aides.

“Preparations began right after the announcement of the visit. There were two areas of concern: that of the religious leader and its implications, pastoral and liturgical, and that of the head of state and its implications, government protocols, security”, explains Santos. “There has always been a great concern on the part of the Archdiocese to make the visit as less bureaucratic as possible, that is, that the faithful could follow the pope closely.”

“As the Vatican confirmed the pope’s agenda in São Paulo, we made progress in the specific preparations — the meeting with young people in Pacaembu, with the bishops, in the Cathedral of the Sé, and finally, the canonization of Frei Galvão, in the field of Mars, in addition to more internal activities, such as meetings with authorities and leaders of other religions.”

The main room was decorated with paintings by the monk and artist Carlos Eduardo Uchôa and a small selected library, with complete works by Father Antônio Vieira (1608-1697) in German, classics by Machado de Assis (1839-1908), as well as titles about Brazilian art, São Bento and monasteries installed in the national territory.

Another 12 rooms were prepared for the entourage — his private doctor and nurse, the general ceremonial, two secretaries, two assistants and five security guards stayed at the Monastery.

“I attended the private Masses that the pope celebrated in the monastery’s abbey chapel. Benedict XVI’s simplicity and piety touched me a lot”, comments Father Roberto.

“On one of these occasions, I tried to approach them to kiss their hands and receive a blessing and was stopped by a member of the Swiss Guard who looked after the pope’s security. that I would be embarrassed. Benedict XVI noticed and then came to meet me and, smiling, blessed me. I was extremely moved and grateful for this gesture.”

At the São Bento Monastery, the pope had six meals, including breakfast, lunch and dinner. The menu was based on Italian cuisine, but with a Brazilian touch. It was a traditional service, with pasta for starter, main course and dessert. An example was the gnocchi, prepared with cassava instead of potatoes. The organization has always included typically Brazilian sweets at the end of meals. He refused wine every time, preferring orange juice. Only at lunch on the second day, when there was also a group of cardinals at the table, did Benedict make an exception: he toasted with sparkling wine.


For Father Michelino Roberto, the legacy of the papal visit were the messages left in his public speeches. “Benedict XVI spoke a little about everything: social inequalities, the zeal that the Church must have for the poor and less favored, the defense of life, the family, the true nature of the Church’s mission and the need for it to be missionary “, analyses.

“In this sense, in the meeting he had with then President Lula, he defended the sacredness of life from the beginning of conception, reaffirming the Church’s position in relation to abortion. At the same time, he defended the secularity of the State, which has nothing to do with Atheist state, but with protection of religious freedom. At the meeting with young people, at the Pacaembu stadium, he exhorted them to seek the sanctity of life and not to waste their youthful years, but to dedicate them to great ideals. , of the events I had the opportunity to witness, the meeting with the bishops at the Cathedral of the Sé greatly impressed me. I remember that he spoke of several important themes in the life of the Church in a very firm tone, at the same time, serene. “

Benedict made a series of pronouncements. The first, still on arrival, at São Paulo International Airport, in Guarulhos, on May 9th. On the same day, he greeted and blessed the faithful from the balcony of the Monastery of São Bento.

The following day, he participated in a meeting with young people in Pacaembu. “I have the memory of accompanying the entourage of cars that followed behind the popemobile the route it took between the monastery and the stadium and it was impressive how many people there were scattered in all the streets through which the passage was planned”, says the Santos journalist.

“I remember being in the van a few cars behind the Popemobile, with the windows closed on the advice of security and it was amazing to see people crying and waving, even after the Popemobile had passed and was well ahead.”

The highlight for the faithful, however, was the 11th, when he celebrated the mass for the canonization of the Franciscan Antônio de Sant’Ana Galvão, Frei Galvão (1739-1822), who would then become the first saint born in Brazil. On that date, he also met with bishops at the Sé Cathedral and made another speech.

On Saturday, the 12th, he began his tour of the Paraíba Valley. First, he visited the Clarissa sisters at Fazenda Esperança, in Guaratinguetá, a treatment center for drug addicts, and gave another speech. On the same day, he met with religious in the Basilica of the Sanctuary of Aparecida — and made another pronouncement.

Sunday, the 13th, was his last day in Brazil. He was responsible for the homily of the opening Mass of Celam and the inaugural speech for the works. In the evening, he made a last pronouncement at the farewell, already at the airport in Guarulhos.

Vatican expert Domingues highlights the political role of the visit to Brazil, considering that Bento was seen as a Eurocentric pope. “He demonstrated that the church in Latin America is important. It left the image of the pope leaving Europe”, he evaluates. “And he even broke the stereotype of a distant and conservative pope; he was open, close to the people.”

“I think we changed a little the way Brazil looked at Pope Benedict 16”, says Santos. “We had the impression that the Pope was very strict, not very close to the people. And he arrived smiling, hugged the faithful, asked to roll down the window of the popemobile in front of the Sé cathedral, to the horror of the security guards, he wanted to appear several times on the balcony. Looking back, they look more like Pope Francis than Benedict. And I think this change of perspective has revived many faithful.”

“And the conference [Celam] proved essential. He marked the life of the church much more than we thought, so much so that it led to the election of Francisco, a pope ‘son of the Document of Aparecida'”, adds Domingues.

First time in Brazil

Before becoming pope, Cardinal Ratzinger was in Brazil one more time. In July 1990, he participated in a meeting with Brazilian bishops in Rio de Janeiro. He stayed at the residence of the then Cardinal Archbishop of Rio, Eugênio de Araújo Sales (1920-2012). It was a ten day trip.

Ratzinger visited the main sights of the city, gave several interviews criticizing Marxist Christian currents and met with Rabbi Henry Sobel (1944-2019), then president of the Congregação Israelita Paulista.

This text was originally published here.

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