“This is my first pastoral visit to Latin America and I am preparing myself spiritually to visit the continent where almost half the Catholics of the whole world, many of them young people, live.” (my emphasis)
This statement, along with him pointedly referring to S. America as the “continent of hope”, reveal one of Benedict’s primary goals for his trip to Brazil: to proclaim the Gospel in all its power to Brazil’s young people.
He has, for instance, scheduled a special meeting with 40,000 Brazilian youth in a soccer stadium, and I’m very interested to see what he has to say to them.
The AFP published an article today with some sobering statistics regarding the sexual practices of Brazilian youth. Now, admittedly, the survey that provides these statistics was requested by “Catholics for a Free Choice”, a notorious group that specifically targets gatherings of Catholic youth. I remember when attending WYD 2005 in Cologne, Germany, that Catholics for a free Choice had plastered pro-condom/contraception advertisements all over the city. Amazingly some that I saw disappeared soon after.
Back to the survey, the AFP article quotes the head of the “Life and Family Episcopal Commission of Brazil’s Conference of Bishops” saying that the Brazilian youths who were surveyed are “young people who say they are Catholic but do not practice Catholicism….They are Catholics only by name.”
Other forces are trying to array against the pope, including self-professed feminists, homosexual-rights groups, “Catholics for the Right to Choose” (which could very well be the same as Catholics for a Free Choice), as this article details.
Meanwhile, the ongoing debate between whether the Roman Catholic population in brazil is declining sharply or “stabalizing“ remains fierce. An emergent figure for the media to quote as the “Catholic who disagrees with Pope” is Father Jaime Crowe (known locally as Padre Jaime – picture), who Reuters (and I’m sure other portals) will be quoting often.
A quotation from the Reuters article, interviewing Padre Jaime:
The shantytown has many one-parent families, second marriages and teenage pregnancies. Drug and alcohol addiction is common, and violence is rife.
“How do we reconcile all that with the Gospel and not make people feel excluded?,” he [Padre Jaime] said.
This article, and many others, also claim that interest in Pope Benedict’s visit is much less than that generated by Pope John Paul II’s (four) visits. But time will tell on that one – don’t discount Papa Benny before he has his chance.
On a slightly related topic, things aren’t all bad. Thirty-eight new recruits to the Swiss Guard were sworn in today, and Pope Benedict thanked them for “choosing to dedicate some years of [their] youth to the service of the Pope and his closest collaborators.”
[photo: AFP/File Mauricio Lima]