Pope Francis has blessed the sign of blessing on the grave of Brazilian poet and author Paulo Banda.
Banda, who was the subject of a 2009 plagiarism scandal, died on Monday at the age of 89.
In a ceremony in St. Peter’s Square, Francis said: “It is my privilege to be the first pontiff to bless this blessing sign.”
Banda died peacefully after undergoing surgery for pneumonia, according to the Vatican.
The pope praised Banda for his work and his “remarkable life” and said he was a model for humanity.
“It is the duty of every human being to serve others,” he said.
Bana’s “A Journey into the Heart of the World” was first published in 1969, but it was widely banned after a French court found that the book was “infringing” on Banda’s name and rights.
The Pope, who is known for his devotion to the poor, said he “never doubted” Banda was sincere in his desire to write about the plight of the poor.
He said Banda had been a “miserable, sad and often sadistic” writer.
“I could not resist his appeal to me,” the Pope said.
The pontiff, who received a rosary on the occasion, praised the authors of the book, whom he described as “people who have never known any poverty, have never experienced it, have no money, have nothing.
The only reason they are happy is that they are living a life they love.”
Bana, a writer who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2002, was an atheist and a pacifist, but had his work banned in France, where he lived until he died in 2007.
Bantu was a former Marxist who wrote in the 1960s about Brazil’s poor.
Bangui is the first Catholic pope to bless the grave, the BBC’s Chris Morris reports from the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel.