Brazil wants visiting Pope to canonise first saint

BRASILIA, Brazil - Brazil's Catholic Church expects Pope Benedict to canonise the first Brazil-born saint during his first visit to the world's largest Roman Catholic country next May, a top bishop said today.

Vice-president of the Brazilian National Bishops Conference, Dom Antonio Celso de Queiros, told reporters the final decision on the canonisation of Friar Galvao is expected to emerge before the Pope's visit, which is why local church officials asked the Holy See to perform it in Brazil.

Canonisations normally occur in the Vatican.

"Friar Galvao will be the first canonised saint born here," de Queiros said.

Friar Galvao, a Franciscan who lived between 1739 and 1822, was beatified by late Pope John Paul in 1998. Beatification is the penultimate step before sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church. It is conferred on particularly holy people who have performed a miracle or on martyrs.

The miracle of healing is one of the miracles attributed to Friar Galvao.

It will be the fourth visit by a Pope to Brazil, where over 70 per cent of the population of 186 million describe themselves as Catholics, and the first by the new Pope elected last year.

On May 13, Pope Benedict will hold a mass in Aparecida do Norte, the largest shrine dedicated to Virgin Mary in the world, and the following day will open the Latin American Episcopal Conference.

- REUTERS

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