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Last Updated: Friday, 11 May 2007, 16:20 GMT 17:20 UK
Profile: Saint Antonio Galvao
An 18th Century friar, Antonio Galvao, has become the first Brazilian-born saint, after being canonised by Pope Benedict XVI.

Saint Antonio Galvao (right) in a leaflet held in Sao Paulo
Saint Galvao (right) is revered by Brazilian Catholics
Saint Galvao, who lived from 1739 to 1822, is one of the best-known religious figures in Brazil, renowned for his healing powers.

At a monastery in Sao Paulo, followers of Friar Galvao still use a "miracle cure" on which his reputation rests.

It comprises tiny paper pellets inscribed with Latin prayers that the faithful swallow whole in the belief that it can rid them of ailments.

Friar Galvao's elevation to the sainthood came after the Catholic Church said it had established that he had performed at least two miracles - including healing a young girl whom doctors had deemed incurable.

Some doctors have said the paper pellets are effectively placebos, with no medical attributes.

'Tireless traveller'

Antonio Galvao was born in the town of Guaratingueta, in what is now Sao Paulo state.

Saint Antonio Galvao
Saint Galvao is credited with performing at least two miracles

His family was wealthy and well-respected. His father was a Portuguese immigrant and his mother claimed descent from a legendary explorer and emerald prospector.

The young Galvao began his studies at a Jesuit seminary. But as the order came under persecution from mainstream religious leaders, Galvao was transferred by his father to a Franciscan school.

He was ordained to the priesthood in 1762 and, six years later, he became preacher and confessor at the St Francis Friary in Sao Paulo.

As confessor to a group of holy women, the Recollects of St Theresa, Friar Galvao met Sister Helena Maria.

Impressed by the sister's religious visions, Friar Galvao supervised the construction of new premises for young women who wished to lead a religious life without being bound by vows.

After Sister Maria's death, he continued to work on the building, expanding it and writing a rule book for the Recollects who lived within.

Over the course of his career, Friar Galvao supervised the construction of several more religious buildings.

Sao Paulo remained the focus of his attentions. On his many journeys through the city, he is said to have avoided using horses or slaves for transport, choosing to visit people on foot.

Friar Galvao died at the Recolhimento da Luz monastery on 23 December 1822.

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