Profile: Brazil's soon-to-be saint performed paper-pill miracles
By Ana Maria Pomi May 9, 2007, 19:26 GMT
Sao Paulo - Friar Galvao - an 18th-century Franciscan priest believed to have performed miraculous healings through pieces of paper rolled into pills - is set to become the first Brazilian-born saint on Friday.
Pope Benedict XVI is set to canonize Friar Galvao on Friday during his five-day visit to Brazil - the largest Roman Catholic country in the world - which is to start later Wednesday.
Although the Vatican only acknowledges two miracles on his count, hundreds of followers staunchly stand by the healing powers of the Franciscan friar Antonio de Sant'Anna Galvao and insist that his 'miraculous pills' cured them from various ailments.
According to Catholic lore, Friar Galvao's healing power first emerged when the religious man received a cry for help. A woman was about to give birth and her life was in danger, prompting her husband to turn to Galvao.
'Illuminated by the grace of God,' the friar wrote in three small pieces of paper, in Latin, the verse of the Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He rolled them up in the shape of pills and handed them to the man to give to his wife. The accounts say that she swallowed them and quickly gave birth to her son without further complications.
This event is one of the first 'revelations' of the various powers attributed to the friar, born Guaratingueta, in the interior of the state of Sao Paulo, in 1739.
The accounts say Galvao had divine gifts like bilocation, which allowed him to be in two different places at the same time, telepathy, premonition and levitation, among others.
But the miracle that paved the way for Friar Galvao to be beatified by the late pope John Paul II in 1998 took place in 1990. A 4-year-old girl who was in a Sao Paulo hospital with life-threatening liver and kidney problems was healed after ingesting Galvao's pills - now produced by an order of nuns in Sao Paolo.
The friar's second miracle - necessary for his canonization and acknowledged by Benedict XVI in December 2006 - refers to a 37-year- old woman with womb malformations that led her to suffer three miscarriages.
In 1999, the woman was pregnant again, but doctors had warned her that she would suffer another miscarriage before completing the fifth month of her pregnancy. She then started to pray to Friar Galvao for her baby's wellbeing, and at the same time she started to take his 'miracle pills.'
The 'miracle' happened in December, when she gave birth to a child by C-section. The boy had respiratory problems during the first week of his life, but was then released from hospital in perfect health condition.
After his canonization was announced, devotion for Friar Galvao - ordained a priest in 1762 in Rio de Janeiro - grew immensely among Brazilian Catholics. And so did the demand for his 'miracle pills,' whose phrases in Latin were previously handwritten and are now printed by machines.
The pills are made by nuns in the Mosteiro da Luz, in central Sao Paulo, and handed out free to some 300 faithful who require them everyday.
'The fever of Frei Galvao' has also boosted the interest in other religious articles with the image of the religious man. They sell like hotcakes, even more than those with the figure of Benedict XVI, in the surroundings of the Mosteriro da Luz, which was built by the friar himself in 1788 and has been declared part of the World's Cultural Heritage by UNESCO.
The Franciscan friar - whose father would not let him be a Jesuit for fear of the persecution that the Society of Jesus suffered at the time - made a name for himself for his work and devotion to the poor and the sick.
In the run-up to his canonization, the image of Friar Galvao was painted for the first time by Brazilian artist Gilberto Gomes, born in the same city as the priest and who created Friar Galvao, Saint of our Land, based on historical references.
The devout do not restrict their faith in the friar to health problems. On Saturday, the football team in his native Guaratingueta - which carries the town's name - and its fans showed an image of Galvao when they played, and won, the final of a local tournament.
The canonization of Friar Galvao, who died in 1822, is set to take place on Friday during a mass which Benedict XVI will celebrate in Sao Paulo's Campo de Marte, with over 1 million people expected to attend.
In 2002, John Paul II canonized Mother Paulina, who had Brazilian citizenship but was born in Italy.© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur