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Controversial Brazilian Priest Receives Official Pardon from the Vatican

12/15/2015 - 09h19

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JOÃO PEDRO PITOMBO
FROM SALVADOR

For some he is a saint, a miracle worker, defender of the poor; for others, a charlatan, a false prophet who accumulated a fortune. One of the most popular and controversial figures of the Brazilian northeast, Padre Cicero Romão Batista (1874-1934) has made history once again.

Batista was suspended from his duties as a priest in 1889, but he has now been officially pardoned by the Vatican, which has announced a process of "reconciliation".

The move was announced on Sunday (13) by Bishop Dom Fernando Panico, from the diocese of Crato, in Ceará, who received a letter from the Vatican informing him of Pope Francis' decision. Dom Panico sent the request for reconciliation nine years ago.

Revered in pilgrimages that bring more than two million people to Juazeiro do Norte, in Ceará, every year, Padre Cicero was one of the most popular figures in the northeast at the beginning of the 20th century.

Politicians, outlaws, rich landowners and peasants alike went in their thousands to ask "Padim Pade Ciço", as he was popularly known, for his blessings - even after the priest was suspended by the Vatican.

A charismatic figure, Cicero was influential in political and social life in Juazeiro do Norte, where today he is remembered with a 27-metre high statue.

He was expelled from the Catholic Church after an episode which became known as the "miracle of the host", in which a host given by the priest to a member of the congregation turned into blood.

For Dom Murilo Krieger, vice-president of the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops (CNBB), who is also the archbishop of Salvador and primate of Brazil, the Vatican's decision recognizes the role and legacy of Padre Cicero.

With the pardon, Cicero is now eligible to be beatified and canonized. However, the diocese of Crato says there are no immediate plans to lodge a request for his beatification.

Translated by TOM GATEHOUSE

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