On October 12, 2019 the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of Nossa Senhora da Conceição de Aparecida. I believe that relatively few Brazilians know Aparecida's history well. In 1717, three fishermen, Domingos Garcia, João Alves and Felipe Pedrosa, residents on the banks of the Paraíba River in the municipality of Guaratinguetá, discouraged because they had not caught any fish, after several hours of work, were already heading back home when casting the net again, they removed the body of a headless image the waters and, in a second throw, also found the head of the image of cooked earth. Impressed by the event, they tried one more throw of the net, and at that moment the fishing was so abundant that they filled the three canoes. They cleaned the image very carefully and verified that it was a dark image of Nossa Senhora da Conceição. They placed her in the chapel of her poor village and before her began to say their daily prayers. It was not long before the Virgin showed by new signs that she had chosen this image to distribute special favors to her devotees. The devotion and affluence of the people grew every day and therefore it was necessary to build a chapel in an appropriate place in order to facilitate the devotion of the faithful. There was the coconut palm hill, the most striking of all the highs that line the Paraíba River. On top of this hill the first chapel was built in 1745 and the first mass was celebrated. The image of Nossa Senhora da Conceição, already called by the affectionate name of Aparecida, was in its definitive place, giving rise to the city of the same name.
The ascension stages that increased devotion to Nossa Senhora Aparecida are as follows: The first chapel, several times renovated and enlarged, was too small and was replaced in 1888 by a much larger and more artistic one. Having made the material construction, the diocesan bishop wanted to provide the sanctuary with adequate religious service. For this, in 1893 he invited the Redemptorist Fathers, who since 1894 have exercised with admirable zeal the direction and spiritual assistance of the sanctuary. On September 8, 1904, for a special privilege granted by the Holy Father the Pope, the solemn coronation of the image of N. S. de Aparecida was proceeded, in the presence of a large number of bishops. In 1908 the pope elevated the sanctuary to the dignity of a basilica. In 1930 Pope Pius XI, welcoming the request of the bishops of Brazil, solemnly proclaimed Our Lady of Aparecida the main patron of all of Brazil. In 1967, completing 250 years of devotion, Pope Paul VI offered the Basilica of Aparecida the Rose of Gold, with this gesture wanting to recognize the importance of the basilica and encourage Marian worship. (Data the book: S. Conti, O Santo do Dia, Vozes, 4th.ed. 1990, pages 451-454)
Pilgrimages continued to grow, adding up to several million pilgrims every year. In the forties, the priests noticed that the Basilica had become too small. In 1950 it was decided to build a new and much larger Marian temple. The construction with its dependencies lasted more than twenty-five years and, finally, it was solemnly consecrated in the historic visit of Pope John Paul II to Brazil, on July 4, 1980. In that same year, the then President of the Republic of Brazil, General João Batista de Figueiredo, promulgated Law No. 6,802, of June 30, 1980, declaring October 12 as a national holiday for public and official worship to Nossa Senhora Aparecida. In 2007 Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI visited the Basilica to open the V General Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Episcopate. He was delighted with the beauty of the basilica, but much more delighted with the devotion of the pilgrims, all devotees of N. S. de Aparecida. In 2018, almost fifteen million pilgrims visited the Brasílica de Aparecida.
On July 24, 2013, Pope Francis visited and celebrated Holy Mass in the National Basilica of N.S. Aparecida, asking Our Lady to intercede with his Divine Son for the success of World Youth Day. His request was heard because 3.4 million young people attended the big event in Rio de Janeiro that year. Pope Francis, like his predecessor, was enchanted by the beauty of the Basilica and the faith of the people of Aparecida. He demonstrated his desire to return in the year 2018. Unfortunately, for superior reasons he cannot keep that promise.