By Devin Watkins
As the epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic shifts to Latin America, Pope Francis made a personal phone call as a sign of his pastoral care for all Brazilians.
The Pope telephoned Archbishop Orlando Brandes of Aparecida on Wednesday.
According to the archbishop, the Pope asked him to assure everyone of his prayers.
“I am always near to you, as my heart reaches out to all Brazilians,” the Pope said.
Pope Francis also extended his affection and prayers to the nation as a whole, and not merely to Christians, said Archbishop Brandes.
The Pope’s call came at a difficult time for Brazil.
As of Thursday, over 772,000 cases of Covid-19 had been confirmed in the Latin American nation.
Nearly 40,000 people have died with the novel coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Those numbers put Brazil in second place regarding confirmed cases, after the United States.
People of faith
At this difficult time, Pope Francis invited Brazilians to place themselves in the lap of Our Lady of Aparecida, the Patroness of Brazil.
Her image was enthroned in the Vatican Gardens in September 2016.
According to Archbishop Brandes, the Pope said, “I recall that I took the image of Our Lady of Aparecida in my lap – the Madonnina, which means ‘little mother’. I urge you all to rest in her arms.”
Pope Francis then blessed the people of Brazil, and concluded the phone call with a word of encouragement.
“Have courage and hope,” he said. “We are people of faith.”
Nearness to Brazilians
This is the third call the Pope has made to Brazil since the pandemic began. He spoke first with Archbishop Leonard Steiner of Manaus on 25 April, and with Cardinal Odilo Scherer, the Archbishop of São Paulo, on 9 May.
Pope Francis made his first Apostolic Journey to Brazil for the 2013 World Youth Day.
During that trip, he paid a special visit to the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida. There he entrusted his pontificate to her maternal care.