Pope celebrates mass for millions in Brazil

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.

Read more…

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

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.”

Read more…

Pope Francis may clash on doctrine with young Brazilian Catholics

Vincent Bevins – Los Angeles Times, 07/23/2013

By all accounts, Pope Francis has already won over many hearts in Brazil with his simplicity and message of caring for the poor. But as he travels the country on his first overseas trip as pontiff, he will be speaking to a group of young Catholics who hold far more liberal views than the church hierarchy on a number of issues, including female priests,  homosexuality and abortion.

After arriving in Rio to enormous crowds on Monday, the pope spent Tuesday resting and having private meetings at the Sumare residence where Pope John Paul stayed in 1980 and 1997. Thousands of young pilgrims filled a rainy Copacabana beach to attend a series of religious-themed concerts that were part of World Youth Day, which, despite the name, is a five-day event that began Tuesday and is ostensibly the reason for the pope’s visit to Brazil.

But the young people Francis encounters are not necessarily representative of young Catholics  worldwide, and they hold some views that run sharply counter to those espoused by Francis and the Roman Catholic Church.

For instance, 82% of Brazilian Catholics ages 16 to 29 think they should be able to use the morning-after pill to prevent pregnancy, 72% support ending the celibacy requirement for priests, and 62% believe women should be candidates for ordination, according to a survey published Sunday by the Brazilian Institute of Public Opinion and Statistics.

Read more…

In Brazil, thousands turn out to greet Pope Francis

Vincent Bevins, Tracy Wilkinson – Los Angeles Times, 07/23/2013

Pope Francis returned Monday to South America on his first official trip since becoming pontiff, thrilling a picture-taking, flag-waving, dancing and singing crowd of thousands energized by the breath of fresh air he has brought to the Vatican.

The Argentine-born pope, who has added a sense of humility and a common touch to the Vatican, came to Brazil to attend World Youth Day, an annual international gathering of young Catholics. But expectations are high in Brazil and throughout Latin America among many who are looking for the church to reengage with the region’s pressing social issues.

The anticipation was evident among young pilgrims in multicolored T-shirts who jammed streets in downtown Rio de Janeiro hours before Francis landed at the city’s airport. When the smiling pontiff rode through the city center in a popemobile, the crowds cheered and laughed.

Read more…

Brazil marks Candelaria massacre anniversary

Jo Griffin – Al Jazeera, 07/23/2013

It was a dark chapter in Brazil’s history that shocked the world and sowed the seeds of social reform after eight street children were gunned down by off-duty police officers outside the Catholic Candelaria Cathedral on July 23, 1993.

Twenty-years later, some observers are questioning if the upcoming World Cup in 2014 and 2016 Olympics will lead to further police abuse against vulnerable young people as authorities attempt to clean up Rio de Janeiro. The anniversary also puts the spotlight on persistent accusations of police brutality, mostly against Brazil’s most impoverished people.

While celebrations are underway with the visit of Pope Francis to Rio, the grim Candelaria anniversary will be marked with several sombre events and marches outside the church.

Read more…