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.
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.
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.
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.”