News / Americas

Brazilian Ex-Catholics: Pope Visit Won’t Win Us Back

Brazilian Ex-Catholics: Pope Visit Won’t Win Us Backi
July 26, 2013 9:41 PM
The Roman Catholic Church is hoping that Pope Francis’ visit to Brazil for its World Youth Day will staunch the hemorrhage of its flock throughout Latin America. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visits an evangelical church near Washington that serves Brazilian immigrants and met some former Catholics.
VOA Religion Correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visits an evangelical church near Washington that serves Brazilian immigrants.
A weeknight prayer service at the Nations United Baptist Church outside Washington has everyone on their feet. As one of many Portuguese-language evangelical churches that have popped up in the United States in recent decades to serve the Brazilian diaspora, as might be expected, it’s not hard to find former Catholics here.
The enthusiasm of these Brazilian immigrants is testament to the exponential growth of evangelicalism in the country that hosted Pope Francis this week.
A generation ago, Brazil was 90 percent Catholic. Now it’s around 65 percent.
Pastor Samuel Rozolem says many Brazilians felt the Catholic Church was out of touch.
"The evangelical church in Brazil grew extensively because also it started to reach out to the needs of people, to the poor, to the drug addicts," he said.
Brazil is exporting its own Evangelical brand — influenced by the deeply emotional charismatic worship style.
For Franco Rossetti, a neuroscientist, his native faith did not answer his questions.
"When you’re born Catholic in Brazil you go to the church to be baptized, you don’t know, and after that you go to the church every Sunday, but you don’t know why you go to church every Sunday," he said.
Vane Garcia says that was the kind of upbringing she had.
"I have nothing against the Pope, but I don’t believe he can do anything for me," she said.
According to Andrew Chesnut, chair of Catholic Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, many Catholics have left the Latin American church because it was historically oriented toward the privileged.
"It's only really when, because of Vatican II — but more importantly because so many millions of Latin Americans were leaving the Catholic Church to become Pentecostals, starting in the mid-20th century — that the Catholic Church really starts to discover its poor parishioners throughout Latin America," he said.
Francis has taken that further, becoming known as the “slum pope” for recently visited a Rio de Janeiro favela. Some observers believe he is encouraging charismatic practices. Several months ago, he laid hands on a Mexican man said to be possessed by evil spirits.
Luis Lugo of the Pew Research Center in Washington says the church has been forced to respond to the greater religious pluralism in the region.
"This competition, if you want to call it that, from evangelicals, Pentecostals, but also from the rising number of the unaffiliated, has been a kind of wake-up call to the Roman Catholic church that it has to now work harder to keep those folks within its fold," he said.
Brazil has 123 million Catholics. That’s still more than any other country. But despite their excitement over Pope Francis, it will likely take much more than a papal visit to maintain Catholicism's central role in Brazilian life.

Jerome Socolovsky

Jerome Socolovsky is the award-winning religion correspondent for the Voice of America, based in Washington. He reports on the rapidly changing faith landscape of the United States, including interfaith issues, secularization and non-affiliation trends and the growth of immigrant congregations.

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Comment Sorting
by: BarbaraAnn Pendse from: N Birmingham Alabama
July 29, 2013 6:34 PM
First of all, this has been a very sudden drop in the number of Catholics in Brazil. Someone says the number of Catholics dropped, however, I hear quite a bit of "Chicken Little" tales, these days, from the beasts, who send in their agents: x-cons, false teachers, the desperate, and military paid. I'm not really going to believe this report, unless a Catholic leader indicates that the population stats are such. Secondly, The there has always been slander about the Papacy, since the early Church. Why else would St. Peter and the rest of the Apostles, except for John, have met their end, by cruxifiction? The worldly Catholic militants, slandered, persecuted, tortured, imprisoned, and murdered them. They are still at it, only today, they are Godless militants, and some Protestant militants.
The Papacy has ALWAYS been about helping the poor. Make no mistake about it, Jesus at His Sheepgate, with The Holy Spirit, has always been caring for the poor, and promoting doing God's will. Those who didn't do His Father's will, were not wanting to suffer, or be less than worldly. The Holy Spirit, upon Popes, can't fail to be anything less than Jesus is. That amount of Holy Spirit, lifts one's soul, mind, emotions, and body UP, to higher planes of behavior, and is perfecting of individual personalities, even though every Pope IS an individual.
Why does someone want to start a conflict between Pentacostals, and Vatican devout Catholics? These should be the last bretheran to have a conflict with each other. The early Church HAD Pentacostal Charismatic Catholics, as described in the Gospel of Acts, on the day of Pentacost, and also all throughout St. Paul's writings giving instruction to the Church members about how and when to pray together and share gifts of The Holy Spirit! If Pentacostals and Charismatic Catholics prayed together, they would never know the difference among them, about who is Catholic, and who is Pentacostal. Not unless they indicated this difference. I've only had great rapport with Pentacostals, as a Catholic, and have never had rejection about praying with them!
Its time that Pentacostals come back Home to their true Universal Church, where their Pentacostal roots originated!
They will LOVE the miracles, that with their high faith, they will experience in the Body and Blood of the Universal Holy Catholic Church!

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