Pubdate: Sun, 13 May 2007
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2007 Los Angeles Times
Author: Tracy Wilkinson, Times Staff Writer


Benedict XVI, In Brazil, Urges Ex-Users To Heal Their Souls, And 
Excoriates Traffickers

APARECIDA, BRAZIL -- Recovering drug addicts, guitar-strumming youths 
and cloistered nuns on Saturday welcomed Pope Benedict XVI into rural 
Brazil, where he warned narcotics traffickers that they face the 
wrath of God for unleashing a deadly scourge across Latin America.

Pressing a crusade that has attacked extramarital sex, abortion and 
hedonism, Benedict congratulated the addicts for kicking their habits 
but said that for full recovery they must also heal their souls.

"Reintegration in society undoubtedly demonstrates the effectiveness 
of your initiative," he said. "Yet it is the conversions, the 
rediscovery of God and active participation in the life of the church 
that attract even greater attention and that confirm the importance 
of your work."

The pope was speaking at Fazenda da Esperanca (Farm of Hope), part of 
a chain of rehab farms that was founded by a Franciscan friar in 
Brazil and has spread to countries around the world. It is run by a 
religious order that emphasizes discipline and faith and requires 
members to tend gardens and milk cows as part of therapy.

This orchestrated appearance at a relatively affluent center was the 
only direct contact the pope will have with ordinary people during 
his five-day pilgrimage to the world's largest Roman Catholic 
country. He heard testimonials from five people about lives broken by 
cocaine or alcohol, hugged a weeping woman and shook hands with 
dozens of excited followers.

One of the testimonials came from Sylvia Hartwich of Berlin, who 
described an ordeal of bulimia, drugs and attempted suicide. Her 
voice cracking, she thanked the program for saving her and said she 
now volunteers for the German branch of the farm system.

"Now I'm a light for other girls," she told the pope.

Benedict reserved his sharpest attack for drug traffickers, whose 
turf wars have bloodied neighborhoods from Brazil to Mexico. He 
ordered them to "reflect on the grave harm" they are inflicting on 
all levels of Latin American society.

"God will call you to account for your deeds," he said. "Human 
dignity cannot be trampled upon in this way."

The center of Benedict's attention in this region about 100 miles 
from Sao Paulo is the sanctuary of the Aparecida, a shrine to the 
Virgin Mary that is visited by millions of people a year. He led a 
rosary at the imposing red-brick basilica dedicated to a black image 
of the mother of Jesus, "Our Lady Who Appeared," the patron saint of Brazil.

According to legend, Brazilian fishermen were suffering a dry spell 
in the mid-18th century when they netted a statue of Mary. Suddenly 
the fishermen began catching a bounty. Later other miracles were 
attributed to her, and eventually the site was declared an official shrine.

The town of Aparecida, which receives the droves of pilgrims paying 
homage to the Virgin, is spread out on a hillside, with the basilica 
dominating the horizon.

The town is a collection of ramshackle market stalls and tacky 
storefronts where a few reals, the local currency, can get you a 
statue of the Virgin of Aparecida in just about any size, or a key 
chain, refrigerator magnet or T-shirt bearing the image.

The Virgins that plug in and light up, however, cost a little more.
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman