Batista, Cícero Romão

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Brazilian priest, object of popular devotion; b. Ceará, Brazil, 1844; d. Rome, 1934. He was ordained in 1870 and had manifested mystic tendencies while still in the seminary. As pastor in Juazeiro, Cearáa poor region, both geographically and culturally isolated, and of old messianic traditionhe worked to invigorate the religious faith of the inhabitants, preaching sermons in which he advised repentance and an ascetic life. The drought of 1877 to 1879 brought many more people to this parish, and his reputation and authority increased. In 1889 there occurred "miracles" with hosts that were transformed into blood. Religious fervor increased, and whole families migrated to Juazeiro. The diocesan bishop condemned the miracles (1891), prohibited the priest from preaching and confessing (1892), and from celebrating Mass (1896). Father Cícero traveled to Rome in 1898, where Leo XIII permitted him to celebrate Mass only in a private oratory. Meanwhile, the popular devotion increased as did the population of Juazeiro. Little by little it became dominated by local politics, and clashes with the governors of the state of Ceará reached the point of armed conflict in which the priest's followers considered themselves supernaturally protected by their "padrinho," Father Cícero. The situation continued until his death. The city of Juazeiro even in 1963 continued to be one of the greatest centers of religious pilgrimage in Brazil because of the legends concerning this priest.

Bibliography: a. f. montenegro, História do fanatismo religioso no Ceará (Fortaleza, Brazil 1959).

[j. a. gonsalves de mello]