Monday, May 14, 2007

Last-day-in-Brazil news

~from Kommersant (Russia): Pope Benedict Blamed Latin America’s Problems on Marxism
Marxism is a sytem that once in power brings destruction on economy, environment and the human spirit, Pope Benedict XVI said during the conference in Aparecida, Brazil.
In addition to lashing out at Marxism, Pope Benedict called on the regional bishops to shape a new generation of catholic political leaders in an effort to step up the church’s influence in Latin America. The Pontiff also urged to oppose abortions legalization and the use of contraceptives.

During his five-day tour to Brazil, Pope Benedict and Latin American bishops deliberated on poverty, social inequality, spread of drugs and violence in the region.

Pope Benedict last arrived in Brazil in 1990, when he was a cardinal. Of interest is that his predecessor, Pope John Paul rushed to Latin America in three months after becoming the Pontiff of all Roman Catholics, while Pope Benedict waited for two years to visit the region that is the home to roughly a half of Catholics of the world.

~from News24, South Africa: Marxism, globalisation slammed
Pope Benedict XVI condemned Marxism and globalisation for many of Latin America's ills on the final day of his trip to Brazil, calling on the region's bishops to mould a new generation of political leaders to reverse Catholicism's declining influence here.

Benedict also criticised Latin America's wide gap between rich and poor, warned that legalised contraception and abortion threatens "the future of the peoples" and said the region's historical Catholic identity was at risk.

Before boarding a plane for Rome on Sunday, the pope criticised both unfettered capitalism and the Marxist influences that have motivated some grassroots Catholic activists in Latin America, remnants of the liberation theology movement he moved to crush when he was a cardinal.

"The Marxist system, where it found its way into government, not only left a sad heritage of economic and ecological destruction, but also a painful destruction of the human spirit," he said in his opening address at a two-week bishops' conference in Brazil's holiest shrine city aimed at re-energising the church in Latin America.

Benedict also warned of the effects of globalisation, blamed by many in Latin America for a deep divide between the rich and poor.

The pope said it could give "rise to a worrying degradation of personal dignity through drugs, alcohol and deceptive illusions of happiness".

The pope did not name any countries in his criticism of capitalism and Marxism, but Latin America has become deeply divided in recent years amid a political tilt to the left - with the election of leftist leaders in Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua and the re-election of President Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Centre-left leaders govern in Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay.

~from Forbes: Pope Assails Marxism and Capitalism
Pope Benedict XVI lamented the deep divide between rich and poor in Latin America but told priests to steer clear of politics as they work to reverse Roman Catholism's waning influence in the region.

Wrapping up five-day visit to Brazil, the 80-year-old pontiff denounced Marxism in an hour-long speech Sunday opening a 19-day conference of Latin American bishops in the shrine city of Aparecida.

"The Marxist system, where it found its way into government, not only left a sad heritage of economic and ecological destruction, but also a painful destruction of the human spirit," the pope said.

He also warned of unfettered capitalism and globalization. Before boarding a plane for Rome later Sunday, he said the two could give "rise to a worrying degradation of personal dignity through drugs, alcohol and deceptive illusions of happiness."

~from the Houston Chronicle: Pope ends trip to Latin America with forceful speech
Pope Benedict XVI ended his first pilgrimage to the Americas much as he began it: with a searing attack on diverse forces, from Marxism and capitalism to birth control, that he believes threaten society and the Roman Catholic faith.

And in comment likely to generate controversy in Latin America, the pope said indigenous peoples, "silently longing" for Christianity, had welcomed the arrival of European priests who "purified" them. Many indigenous rights groups regard the conquest ushered in a period of disease, mass murder, enslavement and the shattering of their cultures.

A notably low turnout Sunday at his final Mass, held at Brazil's most popular religious shrine, underscored the very problems he came here to address: a Catholic Church in decline.

Wrapping up five days in the world's most populous Catholic country, the pope inaugurated a major conference of bishops from Latin America and the Caribbean, telling them they had to do a better job of building up the church.

"One can detect a certain weakening of Christian life in society overall and of participation in the life of the Catholic Church," he said.

The pope came to this region to shore up a deeply divided church that is losing multitudes of followers to Protestant denominations, secularism and apathy. The trip also was seen as a test for a pope often considered European-centric and aloof to the more populous bases of his far-flung church. On that score, he did not appear to have made much headway.

Only about 150,000 people came to this rural Brazilian town for Benedict's final Mass. The open-air celebration took place at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Aparecida, a shrine to a black Virgin Mary who is the country's patron saint.

The pope told the crowd that only faith in God and the church can give them hope: "Not a political ideology, not a social movement, not an economic system."

Flags from various Latin American countries dotted the crowd, which was boisterous but a small fraction of what organizers had predicted. Nuns in dark habits held aloft icons of the Madonna and entire families wore matching T-shirts blazoned with pictures of saints. And this being Brazil, there were plenty of bare mid-rifts, low-cut tank tops and tight pants.

During Benedict's five days in Brazil, many watching him saw and heard not so much an embracing and accessible pontiff as of the man he was before become pope: the dogmatic Joseph Ratzinger, a professorial theologian dedicated to guarding and purifying the faith.

It might be something of an irony that he came to a country with a reputation for hedonism to rail against sex, drugs and lax morals. Or that might have been the point.

"We are not used to him yet," said Ana Cortes, 42, from Montepatria, Chile, who traveled to Aparecida to see the pope and preserved fond memories of his charismatic predecessor, John Paul II.

"We see him as far away still," said Cortes, a mother of two who was wrapped in a large Chilean flag. "But I think in time his words will reach us."

"I don't think many people are listening to him," said her friend, Nilse Barraza, 47.

The 80-year-old pope did not focus on poverty to any great extent during this trip, nor did he orchestrate any of the grand gestures that endeared John Paul to his followers. When John Paul visited Brazil in 1980, he gave his gold cardinal's ring to the residents of a Rio de Janeiro slum. Benedict did not go to a slum nor did he meet with poor people, save for the briefest of accidental encounters outside the Sao Paulo cathedral.

Speaking to the bishops Sunday, he said the "preferential option for the poor" is implicit in faith in Christ, adding that the people of the region "have the right to a full life, proper to the children of God, under conditions that are more human" and free from the threats of hunger and violence.

Sunday's speech to the bishops was the centerpiece lecture of the Brazil trip. It kicked off the fifth General Conference of the Latin American Bishops, a 19-day policy meeting that is held more or less every decade.

Some analysts said the exposure of the Brazilian public to Benedict will help make him a more familiar and appreciated figure.

"The country knows a new image of the pope, an image they didn't know before," Fernando Altemeyer, a theologian at the Pontifical Catholic University in Sao Paulo, told Folha Online, a Brazilian newspaper Web site.

But others suggested the gulf might be too wide for this pope to narrow.

"There is this real disconnect between what the pope says and the reality among Catholics in Brazil," said David Fleischer, a political scientist at the University of Brasilia. "You hear some church leaders in Brazil aping or copying the statements from the Vatican, but for many rank-and-file bishops and priests, their attitude is: 'We'll wait 'til the pope goes home, and then we'll go about doing what we were doing.' "

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