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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 May 2007, 16:56 GMT 17:56 UK
Pope's Brazil tour: Reporter's diary
Pope Benedict XVI is making his first official visit to the Americas, with a trip to Brazil. BBC Rome correspondent David Willey is covering the visit and recording his thoughts in a daily diary.

WEDNESDAY, 9 MAY 2007

The 'miracle pill'

The highlight of the Pope's visit to Sao Paulo will be the canonisation ceremony of Brazil's first native-born saint.

Pope Benedict XVI
Brazil has the largest number of Catholics in the world

His name was Brother Antonio Galvao and he lived two centuries ago in a rather modest monastery still standing among the skyscrapers in sprawling modern Sao Paulo, where he used to dispense a cure-all "pill" to people who sought his aid to relieve such painful illnesses as kidney stones.

These "pills" were made of tiny scraps of paper with a minute inscription - a prayer to the Virgin Mary in Latin - written on them and then scrunched up to be small enough to swallow whole.

Brother Antonio died in 1822 but his "pills" are still being dispensed by the 14 nuns who live cloistered lives in the convent that he originally built.

I had to travel 30 times back and forth across the Atlantic ... before those difficult Monsignori at the Vatican finally caved in and agreed to create our first native Brazilian saint
Sister Celia Cadorin

In fact, there has been a huge demand for them this week - 10,000 a day at the moment, as sainthood looms for their inventor.

The nuns no longer have the time to write out the Latin prayer inscriptions by hand. The tiny scraps of paper are cut from a printed sheet.

One man outside the convent told me that he had come along to get the "pills" for his mother, who was absolutely convinced that they work miracles.

I queued to get my three minuscule paper "pills", carefully hand-wrapped in a another tiny piece of white paper by these industrious nuns.

A woman holds a poster of Pope Benedict XVI in Sao Paolo, Brazil
The canonisation mass is expected to attract two million people

You almost need a magnifying glass to see them. I'm not quite sure if I shall take them or hoard them for some future undefined illness.

But Sister Celia Cadorin, the 70 year old Brazilian nun (in Vaticanese she is called the "postulator" of the cause of Brother Antonio) who brought about the successful conclusion of Brother Antonio's sudden final spurt to sainthood 185 years after his death, is justifiably proud about Friday's canonisation mass, which is expected to attract two million people.

She is a frequent flier.

In fluent Italian she told me: "Do you know I had to travel 30 times back and forth across the Atlantic from Sao Paulo to Rome to argue Brother Antonio's case before those difficult Monsignori at the Vatican finally caved in and agreed to create our first native Brazilian saint?"


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
The Pope greets Brazilians at a monastery





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