RIO DE JANEIRO -- Pope Francis on Wednesday landed at a much-cherished shrine honoring the Virgin Mary on the first full day of his activities in the Americas.
The Argentine-born Francis flew from a rainy, overcast Rio de Janeiro to Aparecida, about 100 miles from Sao Paulo, site of a red-brick basilica that celebrates a black image of the mother of Christ. Millions of Catholics make pilgrimages to Aparecida every year.
He was scheduled to preside over Mass at the shrine to “Our Lady Who Appeared,” patron saint of Brazil, and lunch with bishops and seminarians. He was expected to praise “the house of the Mother of every Brazilian” and speak about hope and optimism.
Local legend tells the story this way: Brazilian fishermen who were suffering a dry spell in the mid-1700s suddenly netted a statue of Mary. With that catch, a bounty of fish followed. Other miracles were later attributed to the icon, and eventually the site was declared an official shrine.