Navigation for Spiritual Outlook

A Heart and Soul Documentary from the BBC World Service

In 1717, three Brazilian fishermen prayed to The Virgin Mary to help them overcome a run of empty nets. Afterwards, they threw their nets over one more time and pulled up not only more fish than they could deal with, but also a statue of Mary herself. That statue is considered the most important relic in the country and is visited by millions of Brazilian Catholics every year in its home of Aparecida, just north of Sao Paolo.

In the past few years more and more pilgrims have travelled to the city to pray at the statue by way of one of the world’s newest pilgrimage routes, the Caminho da Fe (Path of Faith). Bob Walker, a veteran of many of the world’s most famous pilgrimage walks, takes to the Caminho da Fe to find out more why it is so important to Brazilian Catholics even though the walk itself was only started in 2003, and how it compares to pilgrimages such as the Camino de Santiago in Spain. Along his 308-mile way he encounters wild dogs, torrential rain and tough unforgiving terrain.

Bob Walker speaks to the pilgrims he meets on the route and discovers that Catholicism, for so long the religion of virtually all Brazilians, is now under threat from a new, colourful Pentecostalism.