Saturday, May 12, 2007

News from Brazil

~Here's an indy news report that definitely takes a different tone from the rest of the pack. From the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin: The Pope Gives Many Something To Consider
      Roman Catholic or not, it would be difficult for any serious person to not admire Pope Benedict XVI for his faith, courage and adherence to the teachings of the church.
     And even review their own beliefs in the shadow of those attributes.
     The 80-year-old pontiff rattled liberal, secular and rationalist cages again earlier this week by simply repeating the teachings of the church and the Holy Bible.
     The church is firmly in opposition to abortion, and those who support it are aiding in murder, a mortal sin. Simple enough, huh?
     Pope Benedict added that Roman Catholic politicians and officials who support abortion should not take Holy Communion and stand at risk of being excommunicated from the church.
     The statements were brought about in response to reporters' questions about plans by Mexican Roman Catholic officials to excommunicate leftist members of parliament who voted last month to legalize abortion in Mexico City. It remains illegal in the remainder of that country.
     "... (T)he excommunication was not an arbitrary one, but is allowed under Canon Law which says the killing of an innocent child is incompatible with receiving communion, which is receiving the body of Christ," the pope said. The Mexican hierarchy of the church did nothing wrong and simply stated the church's "appreciation for life and that human individuality; human personality is present from the first moment (of life)," he said.
The statements were in keeping with Pope Benedict's pledge to return the church to its traditional beliefs and teachings, while fighting against secularism and rationalism that have watered down Roman Catholicism, particularly in the United States.
     The barring from the Communion rail and possible excommunication may strike many Catholic legislators at the state and national levels as harsh, but no one ever said following the cross was going to be an easy row to hoe....
     ...Yet more has to do with the courage to speak truth to an unbelieving, hedonistic culture.
     Roman Catholics, Protestants and Jews must continually ask themselves, "Whom do I serve?"

~from CTV: Pope Benedict heads to shrine
Pope Benedict XVI turned his attention to strategies for reversing the Catholic Church's declining influence in Latin America, traveling to Brazil's most important shrine to open a regional bishops' conference.

Benedict lamented "difficult times for the church" in Brazil amid "aggressive proselytizing" by born-again Protestant congregations before flying by helicopter from Sao Paulo, the nation's largest city, to Aparecida, a hallowed Catholic religious site.

On Saturday, he plans to visit a rural drug treatment center founded by a Franciscan Friar that claims an 80 percent success rate. Addicts receive spiritual guidance while working as beekeepers, milking cows and tending apple orchards.

He then will open Sunday's conference of Latin American and Caribbean bishops -- aimed at finding ways to reverse the erosion of the church in the region and Brazil.

Brazil's census shows the percentage of citizens characterizing themselves as Catholics plunged to 74 percent in 2000 from 89 percent in 1980, while those calling themselves evangelical Protestants rose to 15 percent from 7 percent.

The backdrop to the conference is Aparecida, 100 miles east of Sao Paulo, which is home to the mammoth Basilica of Aparecida as well as the 3-foot-tall statue of a black Virgin Mary called "Our Lady Who Appeared," the patron saint of Brazil.

The statue was pulled from a river in the 18th century by poor fishermen who were not catching any fish, and then caught loads in their nets. Miracles were subsequently attributed to the statue, and so many pilgrims flocked to Aparecida that the church built the basilica and inaugurated it as a shrine in 1955.

On Friday, the pope canonized Brazil's first native-born saint in a Mass before about a million people. He held up 18th century Friar Antonio de Sant'Anna Galvao as a model of rectitude and humility "in an age so full of hedonism."

Benedict was cheered by flag-waving crowds in the world's largest Catholic nation as he canonized the new saint, continuing a push for saints in the developing world that began under John Paul II, who sought role models as part of the church's worldwide reach. John Paul canonized more saints than all of his predecessors combined.

Benedict also called on Catholics to "oppose those elements of the media that ridicule the sanctity of marriage and virginity before marriage," picking a tough crowd to confront about hedonism and permissiveness.


~from AP via CBS News: Pope Benedict visits drug treatment center
Pope Benedict, continuing his pilgrimage to Brazil, visits a rural drug treatment center today.

Tomorrow, in the centerpiece event of his visit, the pope presides at the opening of a regional bishops' conference aimed at countering the declining influence of the Catholic Church in Latin America. Benedict says he's concerned about "difficult times for the church" in Brazil as well as "aggressive proselytizing" by born-again Protestant congregations.

The drug treatment center, founded by a Franciscan Friar, claims an 80-percent success rate through a combination of spiritual guidance and farm work. Addicts tend apple orchards, milk cows and serve as beekeepers.

Yesterday, the pope canonized Brazil's first native-born saint during a Mass before about a million cheering, flag-waving people in the world's largest Catholic nation.

~from AP via Boston Globe: Pope Benedict canonizes first Brazilian-born saint
Pope Benedict XVI yesterday canonized Brazil's first native-born saint before hundreds of thousands of faithful and a sea of flags in the world's largest Roman Catholic nation.

Holding up Friar Antônio de Sant'Anna Galväo as a model of rectitude and humility "in an age so full of hedonism," Benedict castigated popular culture for promoting sexual immorality.

The pope said the world needs clear souls and pure minds, adding: "It is necessary to oppose those elements of the media that ridicule the sanctity of marriage and virginity before marriage."

Earlier this year, Benedict declared that "any trend to produce programs and products -- including animated films and video games -- which in the name of entertainment exalt violence and portray antisocial behavior or the trivialization of human sexuality is a perversion."

Brazilian news media said the crowd reached about 1 million -- as church officials had hoped for -- although there were large empty spaces on the airfield in South America's largest city.

Benedict pronounced the sainthood of Galväo, a Franciscan monk credited by the church with 5,000 miracle cures, while he sat on a throne of Brazilian hardwood, surrounded by Latin American bishops and choirs of hundreds.

Galväo is the first native-born saint from Brazil, home to more than 120 million of the world's 1.1 billion Catholics, and the 10th to be canonized by Benedict.

His canonization continues a push for saints in Latin America and elsewhere in the developing world that began under John Paul II, who sought role models as part of the church's worldwide reach. John Paul canonized more saints than all his predecessors combined.

"Do you realize how big this is?" asked Herminia Fernandes, who joined the multitude at the airfield for the open-air Mass. "It's huge, this pope is visiting Brazil for the first time and at the same time he is giving us a saint. It's a blessing."

Galväo, who died in 1822, began a tradition among Brazilian Catholics of handing out tiny rice paper pills, inscribed with a Latin prayer, to people seeking cures.

~from New York Times: Amid Burst of Fervor, Pope Canonizes a Brazilian
After canonizing Brazil’s first native-born saint and receiving a bracing dose of Brazilian-style religious fervor at an outdoor Mass, Pope Benedict XVI called Friday for more forceful evangelization throughout Latin America to counter growing conversions to Pentecostal Protestant groups.
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“No effort should be spared in seeking out those Catholics who have fallen away and those who know little or nothing of Jesus Christ,” he told Brazilian bishops at Catedral da Sé de São Paulo. “What is required, in a word, is a mission of evangelization capable of engaging all the vital energies in this immense flock.”

About 140 million Brazilians regard themselves as Catholics, the largest Roman Catholic population in the world. But many do not attend Mass regularly, and the portion who identify themselves as Roman Catholic has dropped in less than a generation from nearly 90 percent of the population to about two-thirds, because of the Protestant advance.

The pope made his appeal in his characteristic way: He emphasized competing with the Pentecostal denominations first by meeting people’s spiritual needs with a back-to-basics Catholicism centered on preaching Jesus’ message. He did not stint on providing for people’s social and material needs, but suggested, as he has in the past, that the spiritual dimension was more important and was the true work of the church.

Even so, he took note of the dire circumstances in which millions of Latin Americans are mired, and signaled his agreement with what the church here calls a preferential option for the poor. When the people missionaries encounter “are living in poverty,” he said, “it is necessary to help them, as the first Christian communities did, by practicing solidarity and making them feel truly loved.”

Within the larger strategy of competing with Protestant denominations, the canonization of the Brazilian, Friar Antônio Sant’Anna Galvão, was a way of marking traditional Catholic territory and differentiating the church from its rivals.

Daily life in Brazil is permeated by the presence of saints, from the names of neighborhoods, businesses and cities, to the plaster statues found in corner bars and the posters and paintings hung in homes both humble and grand.

Fast-growing Pentecostal groups, however, strongly disapprove of the popular focus on saints, which they regard as a form of idolatry forbidden by the Bible. In the 1990s, one Pentecostal preacher prominent on television even smashed an image of the Virgin Mary during one of his programs, shocking many Brazilians and generating widespread repudiation.

“We Brazilians love to venerate the saints, like St. Anthony and St. George, but until now they’ve all been foreigners,” said Bernardo Leite Alves, a 39-year-old bus driver who said he often drove with an image of St. Sebastian on his windshield. As for Friar Galvão, he said, “This is a saint who is really truly ours, born and bred here, who looks like us and has a name like ours.”

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