News / Americas

    Pope Francis Heads to Less Catholic, More Restive Brazil

    A man sells posters of Pope's visit of World Youth Day cross in Rio de Janeiro, July 18, 2013.
    A man sells posters of Pope's visit of World Youth Day cross in Rio de Janeiro, July 18, 2013.
    Reuters
    Five months after becoming the first non-European pontiff in 13 centuries, Pope Francis makes his debut trip abroad next week by returning to Latin America for a gathering of young faithful in Brazil, the world's largest Roman Catholic country.
     
    Francis, an Argentine, confirmed shortly after he assumed the papacy that he would head to his home region for World Youth Day, a weeklong visit beginning on Monday.
     
    The biennial event, expected to draw more than a million visitors to Rio de Janeiro and nearby sites, is part of the Church's effort to energize Catholics at a time when inroads by rival faiths and secularism continue to thin its flock.
     
    It also comes at a time when youth in Brazil, galvanized by a series of mass protests that erupted across the country last month, have grown increasingly vocal about their discontent with the status quo in Latin America's biggest country.
     
    Francis' efforts to put a simpler stamp on the papacy and his origins in the ranks of the region's priests have raised hopes for many of the faithful in Brazil.
     
    So has his stated intent to root out the child sexual abuse scandal that has rattled the Church and to place more emphasis on pastoral work - day-to-day ministry, as opposed to the doctrinaire focus favored by Benedict, his predecessor.
     
    “This new pope is more simple,” said Amanda Martins, a 21-year-old Catholic attending mass near SIao Paulo this month. “Maybe his visit can strengthen the Church.”
     
    Reinforcement
     
    The Church could use reinforcement in Latin America, a historical stronghold. Though still home to more Catholics than any other region, the fervor has faded because of growth by protestant faiths and because consumer-focused city-dwellers have eclipsed the rural populace in which Catholicism took root.
     
    The percentage of Latin Americans who identify as Catholic fell to 72 percent in 2010 from about 90 percent in 1910, according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
     
    “The pope is coming as a pastor,” said Cardinal Raymundo Damasceno, archbishop of Nossa Senhora de Aparecida, a sanctuary near SIao Paulo that Francis will visit. “His message will touch on the problems of the people and seek to shed light on the challenges ahead for the Church and society.”
     
    For Brazil's 120 million Catholics, challenges abound.
     
    As a near decade-long economic boom gives way to slower growth, the country is roiling from popular protests. More than 1 million people hit the streets in June to protest against everything from rising prices to bad government and poor public schools and hospitals.
     
    The biggest demonstrations subsided, but small protests continue, occasionally turning violent. Late on Wednesday, police clashed with looters and vandals who smashed windows and burned garbage in two upscale Rio neighborhoods.
     
    The initial protests successfully used a major international soccer event as a backdrop, contrasting the billions of dollars needed to host the 2014 World Cup with shortfalls in public services. Authorities hope the papal visit will not provide a similar stage.
     
    Along with expected protests by feminists, gay-rights groups and others who oppose the Church's stance on social issues, authorities fear demonstrators will focus on the 350 million reais ($158 million) that organizers say the event could cost. Most of that will be paid by participants and sponsors, organizers say, but millions more will be needed from public coffers to ensure security, transportation and readiness.
     
    Sins of officials
     
    “Pope Francis isn't to blame for the sins of Brazilian government officials,” said Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes this week.
     
    The Vatican itself has played down security concerns.
     
    Francis plans to travel around the city in an open jeep, not the bullet-proof vehicles used since a would-be assassin shot and wounded Pope John Paul II in 1981.
     
    “We think everyone will understand that the pope's message is one of solidarity and peaceful coexistence,” Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said this week.
     
    Just in case, federal and local officials are deploying 22,000 soldiers, police and other security officials. To help ease traffic in Rio, a city routinely crippled by gridlock, authorities declared holidays for the peak days of the visit.
     
    In addition to a seaside speech in Rio's Copacabana neighborhood and a stroll through a well-known shantytown, Francis is scheduled to meet with President Dilma Rousseff and travel to the Aparecida shrine and a remote pasture west of Rio, where the final two days of the gathering will be held.
     
    Francis has asked to stay in a room in a church residence similar to that of other priests, not a big suite organizers had prepared.
     
    Still, the event is a major spectacle.
     
    The altar being assembled in Copacabana, a terraced stage with four circular mini-altars and a backdrop of giant screens, dwarfs the stage used by the Rolling Stones and others for major concerts on the same spot in recent years. About 10,000 busses will ferry worshippers to and from the pasture in rural Rio.
     
    “It's a spectacle to show the world that the Church still exists and is very much alive,” says Leonardo Boff, a prominent Brazilian theologian and former Catholic priest.
     
    Rio's beaches and other tourist hot spots are already buzzing with Catholic visitors, many of them donning colorful T-shirts and flags from their countries of origin.
     
    Even the sand sculptors along the Copacabana shoreline, known for suggestive beach statues of near-naked women, have gotten into the spirit.
     
    “It wasn't cool to have that big butt sticking out,” said Ubiratan dos Santos, a sculptor, telling a local newspaper why one of his creations now wears a skirt instead of her usual thong.

    You May Like

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    More Americas News

    G-20 Finance Ministers Pledge to Boost Global Economy

    Ministers close their 2-day meeting in China expressing concerns about Brexit and trade protectionism

    Obama: Trump’s Portrait of America ‘Doesn’t Jibe With Reality’

    At news conference with Mexico's president, Obama says US is 'not going to make good decisions' about race relations, crime ' based on fears that don’t have basis in fact'

    Vatican Invited to Mediate in Venezuela Crisis

    Various opposition leaders say President Maduro's public exhortations to support dialogue are a cynical attempt to buy time and cling to power

    Homicides Rise 15.4 Percent in Mexico in 1st Half of 2016

    The figures remained below those for 2011, the peak year for violence during Mexico's drug war

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    Large metal barrier that separates Nogales, Arizona, from Nogales, Sonora, isn't that popular with those who live near it

    Brazil Arrests Suspected Olympics Attack Planners

    Cell organized through internet-based messaging services such as WhatsApp and Telegraph