Temple in Brazil Appeals to a Surge in Evangelicals

July 25, 2014

Simon Romero – The New York Times, 7/24/2014

It occupies an entire block in this teeming megacity: a 10,000-seat rendition of Solomon’s Temple.

Towering in sharp relief against the graffiti-splattered tenements nearby, it beckons with monumental walls of stone imported from Israel and the flags of the dozens of countries where its owner, the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, is nourishing an evangelical Christian empire.

A helicopter landing pad will allow Edir Macedo, the 69-year-old media magnate who founded the Universal Church in a Rio de Janeiro funeral home in 1977, to drop in for sermons. The sprawling 11-story complex features other flourishes, too, like an oasis of olive trees similar to the garden of Gethsemane near Jerusalem, and more than 30 columns soaring toward the heavens.

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Friendly rhetoric from Pope Francis in Brazil. But will it translate into action?

July 30, 2013

Joanna Moorhead – The Guardian, 07/29/2013

I’ve travelled on “Shepherd One”, as the plane carrying the pope is known, and it’s very clear when you’re on board how keen the pope’s PR men – and yes (sigh) they are all men – are on declaring a foreign trip a “triumph”.

In the case of Francis’ visit to Brazil, they’re right. Today in Rio they’re calling their famous beachfront the “Popacabana” in tribute to the mass held there on Sunday, when three million camped on the sand to catch a glimpse of the pontiff on his first visit back to Latin America since being elected pope in March.

Virtually the worst thing that happened was when Francis’s tiny Fiat Punto took a wrong turning, prompting fears for his safety. Not only did he come to no harm, but the new message of slimmed-down frugality was well and truly noted.

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Pope celebrates mass for millions in Brazil

July 29, 2013

Stacy Meichtry – The Wall Street Journal, 07/28/2013

Pope Francis brought his first overseas trip to a rousing conclusion before some three million pilgrims who crowded Copacabana beach Sunday for a Mass at the end of a week in Brazil, his maiden effort to rejuvenate a Catholic flock that has dwindled amid scandal and rising secularism.

Building on a call for a more open, pastoral church, the pontiff asked the crowd on Sunday to spread the faith.

“Do not be afraid to go and to bring Christ into every area of life, to the fringes of society, even to those who seem farthest away, most indifferent,” he said.

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Pope’s trip to Brazil seen as “strong start” in revitalizing church

July 29, 2013

Simon Romero – The New York Times, 07/28/2013

Pope Francis celebrated the last Mass of his trip to Brazil on Sunday before more than a million people gathered on the beach in this city, the national flags of Catholics from around the world hoisted in the air as a chorus of Brazilian priests belted out songs before the multitude. It was a vibrant display of the Vatican’s ambition of halting the losses of worshipers to evangelical churches and the rising appeal of secularism.

By various measures, Francis’s first international trip since he was named pope this year was a success. The 76-year-old Argentine, a Jesuit who is the first pope from the Americas, was greeted like a rock star by attendees to a conference of Catholic youth. He urged people to combat corruption, a top grievance in the protests shaking Brazil, and called on bishops to focus on the pragmatic needs of congregants, shifting emphasis from the abuse scandals that have plagued the Vatican for years.

“If this trip is any indication, he’s off to a strong start at revitalizing the church,” said Andrew Chesnut, an expert on Latin American religions at Virginia Commonwealth University who came here to see the pope’s visit up close. “He’s been very astute on focusing on the everyday afflictions of the poor, taking a page from the evangelicals themselves.”

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Can Pope Francis save Brazil?

July 26, 2013

Raul Gallegos – Bloomberg, 07/25/2013

If God is Brazilian, as Brazilians like to say, it didn’t look like it this week.

In the early days of his seven-day sojourn to the world’s largest Catholic nation, Pope Francis got quite the taste of issues currently angering locals. Despite much preparation for the pontiff’s arrival for World Youth Day 2013 — the Catholic version of Woodstock — his motorcade was briefly trapped in traffic. Protests against the $53 million spent to prepare for his visit ended in violence. And scores of the Pope’s followers were stranded in Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday after a power outage paralyzed subway lines.

Catholic pilgrims spent at least five hours waiting to pick up their “pilgrim kits” — which included a backpack, T-shirt, an agenda and Catholic literature — at Brazil’s famous Sambradrome. One attendee, Argentina’s Nair Jaime, tweeted with stoic patience: “The pilgrim kit for our delegation is delayed :) The ladies from our parish are making lunch for us :) We’re waiting.”

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“People’s Pope” connects with Brazil’s poor

July 26, 2013

John Paul Rathbone – Financial Times, 07/25/2013

Two unusual events took place in Brazil this week. First, it has been snowing, and second, Pope Francis was mobbed when he rode through Rio de Janeiro in an open-sided car. Event number one is uncommon in a country better known for tropical beaches; number two is noteworthy as the Catholic Church is better known for keeping its distance from crowds. Pope Francis’ predecessor, Benedict XVI, toured in a bulletproof Mercedes-Benz. Francis, by contrast, is in a Fiat, a “people’s car”.

His choice of ride is significant. Brazil’s “World Youth Day”, a week-long jamboree of the faithful, is Francis’ first trip abroad. Although scheduled long before he became Pope four months ago, the event marks a fortuitous return by the 76-year old Argentine pontiff to his “beloved Latin America”. It is a timely opportunity for the “slum Pope” to re-emphasise his central message: the need to serve the poor.

This is a message which also mirrors the challenges faced by Brazil, one of the most unequal societies on the planet, lately wracked by street protests, sometimes a million strong.

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