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 CNS Story:

POPE-BONARIA May-15-2013 (550 words) With photos. xxxi

Marian statue connects pope's native city of Buenos Aires with Sardinia

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis' native city of Buenos Aires, Argentina, has a centuries-old connection with the Italian island city of Cagliari, Sardinia.

The name of the Argentine capital resulted from a compromise between the city's Spanish founder, Pedro de Mendoza, and the Sardinian sailors who sailed his ship and were devoted to their island's patroness, Our Lady of Bonaria, Pope Francis said.

To the delight and cheers of some 500 pilgrims and seminarians from Sardinia attending the pope's general audience in St. Peter's Square May 15, the pope announced his intention to visit Cagliari's shrine of Our Lady of Bonaria.

Archbishop Arrigo Miglio of Cagliari, who was in Rome for an "ad limina" visit to report on the status of his diocese, told Vatican Radio they were excited by the pope's announcement.

"This visit will not only be a devotional visit, but a gesture of great love for Sardinia, its faith, its traditions and is also a sign of hope for all its forms of poverty," he said.

The pope said the visit would "almost surely be in September." The Vatican had no further details or dates to provide as of May 15. A September trip would fall on the fifth anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI's one-day visit to Cagliari Sept. 7, 2008.

Pope Francis gave a brief explanation of the origin of the name of the city of his birth, saying that when the explorers landed in Argentina in 1536, de Mendoza wanted to name the coastal location, "City of the Most Holy Trinity."

However, the sailors who brought de Mendoza there were from Sardinia, the pope said, and they wanted the place to be called "City of Our Lady of Bonaria," who was the patroness of their island.

"There was a dispute among them and in the end they found a compromise," the pope said; they called it "City of the Most Holy Trinity and Port of Our Lady of Bonaria."

But since the name was "so long, the last two words are what stuck: Bonaria, Buenos Aires," in memory of the Sardinian icon of the Our Lady, he said. "Bonaria" or "Buona Aria" means "good air" or "fair wind."

In addition to Pope Benedict, Pope Paul VI and Blessed John Paul II also visited the Cagliari shrine in 1970 and 1985, respectively.

According to tradition, a violent storm off the Gulf of Cagliari in 1370 caused a Spanish sailing vessel to lose all of its cargo. When one of the objects -- a huge and heavy wooden chest -- hit the water, the sea suddenly calmed and good weather returned. Despite its enormous weight, the chest floated toward the port of Bonaria and, upon landing, was opened by a group of religious men.

Inside was a locust-wood statue of the Virgin Mary who is holding the baby Jesus in her left arm and a candle in her right hand.

A devotion to the Our Lady of Bonaria soon spread across the island and the world, especially among sailors who saw her as their protector. At the time, Sardinia was under the control of Catalonia in Spain so Spanish sailors brought the devotion back with them to Spain and to other territories they conquered.

The icon today is housed in Cagliari's minor Basilica of Our Lady of Bonaria.


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