For World Youth Day, Pope Francis Will Visit Where his Pontificate Really Began

A fascinating insight, via Vatican Insider: 

The Church needs to “rid itself from all expired structures that do not favour the transmission of the faith.” This is what point 365 in the concluding document of the last general assembly of Latin American bishops at Aparecida, Brazil’s most important Marian shrine. The meeting set in stone Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s leadership and transformed the document into a manifesto for his pontifical programme.

It is significant that Francis wanted to add this trip to the shrine to his World Youth Day schedule. Today he will be here to venerate a little 40 centimetre -tall black statue of the Virgin Mary which was found in three pieces by three fishermen, in October 1717 in the Paraiba river. According to tradition the statue is black because it wants to be close to the oppressed and the fact it was found in pieces symbolises the broken lives of slaves.

The meeting of Latin American bishops in 2007 was the first general assembly to be held in a Marian shrine and the fact bishops had constant contact with faithful there – millions of them every year -, influenced their work, as it helped them to understand the importance of devotion and popular piety. “Celebrating the Eucharist with the people is different to celebrating it separately amongst us bishops. That gave us a live sense of belonging to our people, of the Church that goes forward as People of God, of us bishops as its servants.”

It was the first time one of the bishops’ General Conferences “didn’t start out from a pre-prepared basic text but from open dialogue” “to receive everything that came from below,” the future Pope explained. During that time, Latin America’s bishops got to know Bergoglio’s working style. His ability to listen and take all bishops had to say into account. Some of these bishops voted for him in the Conclave last March. It could be said that the election of the Pope “from the other side of the world” actually started at Aparecida.

The Aparecida document contains the key words and the messages which Francis now communicates to the entire Church, starting with his call to people to be missionaries: “To remain faithful we need to go outside. Remaining faithful one goes out. This is the message Aparecida essentially aims to get across,” Bergoglio said. In the Gospel, the most beautiful encounters between God and humanity take place on the street. Centuries of Christian history tell us this,” the late Franciscan archbishop and cardinal Aloísio Lorscheider used to say.

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