So perhaps it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that the meeting of an 80-year-old professorial pontiff and the often exuberant Brazilian flock was not an around-the-clock love affair. For starters, there wasn't the massive turnout for the Pope that some were expecting: far more faithful, for example, had lined the popemobile routes during Benedict's visit to Poland last May, and the canonization mass in the 11-million-strong city of Sao Paulo fell well short of Vatican hopes for one million participants. The national press, meanwhile, focused on ongoing polemics linked to the issue of abortion, especially after Benedict issued a strong warning (as in ex-communication) to pro-choice politicians on his Rome-Sao Paulo flight.On the sidebar, you'll see the link to an article whom Time magazine considers has the right stuff to be Pope: A Rising Latin American Cardinal. Note to Time, so glad you don't get to choose.
Ultimately what may have been missing was some kind of bold gesture to demonstrate the Pope's personal connection with the problems of poverty and social unrest that continue to plague much of Latin America. On John Paul's first visit to Brazil in 1980 he spontaneously donated his golden papal ring to a small parish on a walking visit to a shantytown "favela" in Rio de Janeiro. Benedict's visit to the Comunita della Fazenda da Esperanca on Saturday, where recovering addicts told dramatic stories of their troubles, was no doubt heartfelt. But compared with his predecessor's tendency to mix it up with the flock, this came off as a more orchestrated encounter in the protected and bucolic confines of a successful Catholic-run retreat.
Not to say that the German Pope didn't generate and receive a fair share of warmth in a series of encounters and ceremonies in Sao Paulo and the Marian shrine town of Aparecida. He met with Brazilian priests and bishops; led a stadium rally of 30,000 young people; presided over an open-air canonization mass of the first-ever Brazilian-born saint; prayed to the country's patron saint; and inaugurated the Fifth conference of Latin American and Caribbean bishops that began on Sunday in Aparecida. Reading fluently, and occasionally forcefully, in Portuguese, Benedict did his best to get across his message of commitment to the passions and traditions of the faith, and his criticisms of both Marxism and capitalism. In his concluding address Sunday evening to Latin American cardinals, the Pope said the failures of the past century can be blamed on a blind reliance on economic models. "A society in which God is absent will not find the necessary consensus on moral values or the strength to live according to the model of these values, even when they are in conflict with private interests," he said.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
No love affair for Benedict in Brazil
~the media drum beat continues. Time: No Love Affair for the Pope in Brazil