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Benedict in Brazil (III) (Update)

Today is the last and climactic day of the Pope's stay in Brazil.

This morning he celebrated Mass at the shrine of our Lady of Aparecida. And this afternoon he delivered an address, formally opening the Fifth General Assembly of CELAM.

At the Regina Coeli following the Mass, the Pope spoke not only in Portugese, but in Spanish, French, and English as well.

There is a report from Emer McCarthy on the web page of Vatican Radio. One can hear the voice of the Holy Father in English, and the heart of his message: "Nothing is more beautiful than to know Christ."

John Allen quotes from the CELAM address:

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. And we can also see the same thing happening in the West, where the distance between rich and poor is growing constantly, and giving rise to a worrying degradation of personal dignity through drugs, alcohol and deceptive illusions of happiness.

Allen summarizes the Pope's stance:

[T]he greatest contribution the Catholic church can make is to credibly and passionately proclaim Christ. People who order their lives on Christ, he argued, naturally pursue the values of peace and justice.

The Pope's lengthy address opening the CELAM assembly is now available.

Here is one section of the address:

The peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean have the right to a full life, proper to the children of God, under conditions that are more human: free from the threat of hunger and from every form of violence. For these peoples, their Bishops must promote a culture of life which can permit, in the words of my predecessor Paul VI, "the passage from misery towards the possession of necessities the acquisition of culture cooperation for the common good the acknowledgement by man of supreme values, and of God, their source and their finality" ("Populorum Progressio," 21).

In this context I am pleased to recall the Encyclical "Populorum Progressio," the fortieth anniversary of which we celebrate this year. This Papal document emphasizes that authentic development must be integral, that is, directed to the promotion of the whole person and of all people (cf. No. 14), and it invites all to overcome grave social inequalities and the enormous differences in access to goods. These peoples are yearning, above all, for the fullness of life that Christ brought us: "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (John 10:10). With this divine life, human existence is likewise developed to the full, in its personal, family, social and cultural dimensions.

In order to form the disciple and sustain the missionary in his great task, the Church offers him, in addition to the bread of the word, the bread of the Eucharist. In this regard, we find inspiration and illumination in the passage from the Gospel about the disciples on the road to Emmaus. When they sit at table and receive from Jesus Christ the bread that has been blessed and broken, their eyes are opened and they discover the face of the Risen Lord, they feel in their hearts that everything he said and did was the truth, and that the redemption of the world has already begun to unfold. Every Sunday and every Eucharist is a personal encounter with Christ. Listening to Gods word, our hearts burn because it is he who is explaining and proclaiming it. When we break the bread at the Eucharist, it is he whom we receive personally. The Eucharist is indispensable nourishment for the life of the disciple and missionary of Christ.

About the Author

Rev. Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is Associate Professor of Theology Emeritus at Boston College.



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A Brazilian friend reports that the Pope's visit was an immense success, and that people were impressed by his perfect Brazilian-Portugese accent.

Benedict seemed to enjoy himself at the public events, as did those who turned out. But numbers overall were much lower than expected...only 150,000 at Aparecida, when organizers had expected at least half a million. I don't think it's about the undeniable loss of Catholics to Pentecostalism and such. There are still tens of millions of active Brazilian Catholics. Reasons?

For the same reason that many of us still identify as Catholics. More and more the modern reformers of the church refuse to leave. And if truth be told we prefer order in the liturgy as opposed to someone extemporizing every week. We are a people who are not perfect, sinners, and we need to constructively renew our church. Constantly. Ecclesiam semper reformandi.Meanwhile Benedict is blundering in Brazil, as I see it. No apolgies for the plundering of native cultures. Is the reason that Latin America lags so far behind is that it is predominantly Catholic?Remember it was discovered the same time as North America.

Bill asked "s the reason that Latin America lags so far behind is that it is predominantly Catholic?"Only to whatever extent that Ireland's economic success is related to her predominant Catholicism.Re. Aparecida - the #s at other events were quite large. Isn't Aparecida somewhat remote?The Maid

-I think BXVI's visit to Brazil was a source of great pride to Catholics there.-His address to the Bishops at CELAM (at ZENIT) was relatively wide ranging and offered, beside traidtional pleas, :-a note that globilazation requires an ethic;;-that both Marxixm and capitalism have created problems in the region -that the value of women in the family needs to be better appreciated and respected in that culture;While he especially emphasized the Word and Eucharist, it was less han clear to me how he thought the vocational needs of a place like Brazil would be met.The days ahead at CELAM and the interaction among the diverse Bishops there, as well as their relationship to a group of more liberal/political theologians meeting simultabeously with no blessing from them. should produce some interesting comparisons.The Pope stress we must always be alive to new discoveries in the Spirit. Let's hope.

If there was a relatively muted response by Brazilians to the Pope's presence in Brazil, maybe it's because of the hard act he has to follow, as this pilgrim relates in a Time magazine article:"Emerson Rossi, 50, who walked 400 kilometers from his hometown of Jundiai to attend Sunday's closing mass in Aparecida, as part of his church group Caminho da Fe (Walk of Faith), summed up Benedict's challenge of being in the shadow of his predecessor. 'John Paul was a phenomenon. [Benedict] is normal,' he said. 'John Paul was a charismatic, he was about emotions. We Brazilians are about emotions.'" The article also mentions JPII's purportedly more common touch, as when he gave away his papal ring to a poor parish while doing a walking tour of a favela, as a reason for the Brazilians greater personal connection to BXVI's predecessor. In addition, the article says there are many in South America very eager for a South American pope. There were a few SA cardinals who were frontrunners during the last conclave (Cardinal Hummes, for example), and while no one would wish BXVI ill health, there is apparently a growing anticipation in SA that the Holy Spirit will turn its attention in the direction of that continent at the next conclave.

I agree with Bob. This was certainly one of the best speeches given by a Pope in recent times. I think it's extremely important to read the speech and not limit yourself to the article in the New York Times, or any other periodical. I think he makes a strong point of knowing the Word of God and examing the scriptures, and uniting in the Eucharist. He certainly emphises Jesus's option for the poor and the necessity of a better distribution of wealth . He also right out vatican II speaks of the "common priesthood of the people of God. I think was a wonderful directive. There is not sublstitute for reading this speech in its entirety. Thank you Bob Imbelli for the posting.

My last word until CELAM precedes is to thank Fr. O'Leary, who clearly understands the pastotal issues at play here and tries to elaborate them (with small thanks from those who only can adulate their view of what Rome says.)BXVI has a big vision for his "continent of hope." The point(s) I've tried to make are the pastoral issues are enormous in view of the politcal. socuiological and ecclesiial (especially the issue of division) over the years since Medillin.

"When they sit at table and receive from Jesus Christ the bread that has been blessed and broken, their eyes are opened and they discover the face of the Risen Lord, they feel in their hearts that everything he said and did was the truth, and that the redemption of the world has already begun to unfold. "These words or Benedict strongly says that one can break bread with Jesus only in the Catholic Church. It is a call for unity with the emperor rather than the Savior.Many people break bread with Jesus outside the Catholic Church. Jesus never confined God's people to the Scribes and Pharisees.There were a lot of nice words in Benedict's speech. Unfortunately the concern was more for power than love for neighbor. Otherwise the Samaritans would have been included. We have to stop our obsession with Rome and start seeing where the church, the community of believers subsists wherever "people hear the word of God and keep it." As Jesus says.If we still worship celebrity, then the pope's visit was a success.

Brazil, as I see it, is approximately where Ireland or Italy were 20-30 years ago. Whether it will grow in the same way is unclear, because it's not part of Europe and therefore lacks access to the generous EU resources that were made available to those countries that jump started their economies. Ireland's prosperity, in particular, is a creation of EU largesse (as well as American interest).But Brazil stands out in South America and it has amazing potential. This is purely anecdotal, but I know a fair number of young Brazilians through the au pair program and they exhibit enthusiasm and optimism about their country that is lacking in those coming from, say, Peru or Ecuador. I wonder if Benedict has focused his lens so narrowly on religious practice that he misses other trends -- Telling people to cultivate spiritual richness to combat material deprivation seems ill-considered, even unjust, even if the things that are most likely to lift Brazilians out of poverty are exactly those things that are also likely to make Brazilians less religious. As in Ireland and Italy, foregoing material progress is not a deal that most people would find appealing. To be seen as a bulwark of tradition when tradition is associated with such inequality and poverty is probably not wise.

Benedict had better stick to systematic theology because he obviously doesn't know diddly squat about Latin American history. I took an upper-level Latin American history course thirty-plus years ago, and anyone familiar with this subject should know that native cultures were trampled upon in order to advance the Spanish agenda of God, Glory, and God (and not in that order!).Me thinks Bennie looks through rose-colored glasses.

"God, Glory, and Gold," that is.

Really, just "Catholic" colored glasses. The Catholic Church certainly recognized the burden placed on the Irish, for instance, by the English -- but the English were not Catholic. It's disappointing to see the Pope seem to be so indifferent to the problems of indigenous people, especially since de facto cultural imperialism is still extant in Mexico and Brazil, in particular, as well as in other places. Just an interesting fact, I have read that there was a serious split among missionaries about the approach to native peoples, and when missionaries in Japan tried to do what missionaries in Central America did to the native populace (that is: adopt a conquest model of conversion), they were killed or driven out and Christianity was made illegal. Hence, the survival of Japanese tradition and the dearth of Japanese Christians. Matteo Ricci was a proponent of adapting Christianity in light of Asian cultural assumptions.

A further footnote from the Southwest. Despite well over 400 years of living together, a lot of intermarriage and native foilk living on pueblos and not reservations, there is still much deep seated bad feeling in the native community about the Conquistadores and missionaries who came.Across from what was the infamous Servant of the Praclete treatment Center in Jemez Spriongs, is a small State Monument with some pueblo and Church ruins. If you should pass theere , read the native writing from long ago about the mix.So despite a tremendous amount of value in what Benedict had to say to his fellow Churchmen and catholics, he apparently has offended both evangelical and indigenous leaders.Given the limited clergy there, will this help the Church in its attraction retention problem there?

That's what I don't get. I can't be the only person who believes that what's really weakening the Church in Latin America is the absence of new vocations. It doesn't seem like the Pope is speaking to anybody who might be receptive to priestly vocation. And I continue to believe as a matter of principle that until a nation attains a minimum standard of material well-being (running water and sewers, universal primary education) it would be better for anyone, let alone the Pope, to avoid minimizing the effects of their material deprivation. It sounds too much like "Who cares about your hardships, focus on the gift of being able to kiss my ring!"The cavern between them and him is too vast and it's usually clear as day to those who don't have what he does.

Anyone see Mel Gibson's movie about the pre-Christian culture in Latin America? Some quibble about certain aspects of it but the presentation of the indigenous culture there has not be successfully challenged. Anyone with more than a high school knowledge of pre-Columbian civilization knows that the Spanish brought much improvement by among other things ending ritual cannibalism. We cannot justly blame the Spanish for the fact that indigenous Americans had little resistance to the biological aspects of the Columbian exchange.Anyone know how the native tribes treated one another? Anyone wonder why so many tribes welcomed the Spanish and supported the Spanish in their wars with the Aztec?Is anyone willing to talk about cannibalism in pre-Columbian America?The hermeneutic of suspicion toward the Church and our own religious heritage seems so very strong here - is there anything the Church did right in bringing what the missal still calls "the true faith" to the Americas? Here is one: - the Catholic Europeans were open to intermarriage both in Latin America and in Quebec. A new Christian culture grew out of the old. That did not happen in New England - why not?Let's pay a game - every time we complain about the Church or Pope Benedict we have to say something nice about the Church or Pope Benedict at the same time.Anyone game? I am.The Maid

That the pre-columbian culture had horrible and brutal practices doesn't justify discriminating against mostly indigenous people more than 400 years later, especially since they have professed the majority European religion for most of that time. The "imperialism" didn't just stamp out religious practice, it marked indigenous people with an inferior status that in many respects continues today. That's what the Pope didn't seem to realize, and perhaps he truly doesn't.

The cultures of the indigenous peoples of the Americas were quite complex and noone is proclaiming that all was wonderful there.The notion that they were "savages" and the Christians who came were "civilized" is a terrible bit of self-justification.I really don't get the Maid's "game" comment. I think everyone who contributes here is serious and some of us try to be balanced, which may mean saying both good and bad (to use a childish expression) things about the Church or the Pope.It strikes me that those who love and want the best for the Church will strive to analyze what is happening and not just adulate whatever is hierachically spoken

Bob N. wrote:"It strikes me that those who love and want the best for the Church will strive to analyze what is happening and not just adulate whatever is hierachically spoken."Agreed Bob - here is a place where we can find common ground.You may have noticed my questioning Bishop Trautman's perspective on translation and should understand that to be evidence that at least one of us does not "adulate" "hierarchical" positions based on the speakers "hierarchical" status.To give example of how the game works we can compare it to the "Fairness Doctrine" once used to govern US media - I expressed what could be presumed to be a criticism of His Excellency, the bishop of Erie's position on translation. Let me add that he is a scripture scholar and knows how to run a meeting. The Maid

The Maid, Ireland's economic success, alas, is in direct proportion to its falling away from Catholicism. However, the youthful and well-educated population can be credited to Catholic devotion to family values and to the Church's excellent educational work.

Sorry for another post but JohnAllen's piece today on line about the paradox of BXVI is helpful in appreciating the aftermath of his address and the reaction of indigenous leaders.

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