Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Pope in Brazil

Pope John Paul II travels through a showerof confetti in his popemobile during a 1980 visit to Brazil. Photo: RNS

Pope Benedict XVI will travel to Brazil next week. According to my professor, Harvey Cox, one of the leading experts on Pentecostalism, Brazil is now home to the world's largest number of Pentecostals, as well as the world's largest number of Catholics. However, the Catholic population is in steady decline, and perhaps Benedict's aim in this journey (his first out of Europe since becoming Pope) is to find out why and what to do about it.

Interestingly, according to Professor Cox, Benedict sees the focal issue of his papacy being to re-enliven the Catholic faith in Europe, where there has been much more of a move toward the secular than in the Southern Hemisphere, of late. Catholicism is alive and thriving in Asia, Africa and South America, where Christianity in general has seen explosive growth over the past few decades.

It strikes me that the European missionary efforts of the 19th and 20th century are now coming back to bite them in the proverbial ass. Cox explained that Catholicism in many non-European parts of the world has been molded and adapted to local cultural norms and even often blended with other religious traditions. The Pope, of course, would like to put a stop to that.

With Europe's comparatively luke-warm interest in Christianity, many were wondering if it was time for an African or South American Pope after the death of John Paul II. But on that front, Europe maintained control once again.

It will be interesting to watch the developments in the Catholic church and its scramble to maintain a European cultural dominance over the rest of the world as the

...seems like his ring could feed a small country
Catholic population wanes in Europe and perhaps now even in places like Brazil. I think Benedict will either have to accept and celebrate the changing face of the world's Catholics, or end up losing them to the more accepting and celebratory Pentecostal movements. Christianity was once used to spread European cultural hegemony. But Rome can't control forever the power of the Spirit.

See here for Harvey Cox's interview on the subject on NPR.

Sao Paulo, Apr. 23, 2007 ( - The papal throne to be used by Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news) during his May visit to Brazil will be made of recyclable materials, organizers report.

The cathedra, which is being donated by a charitable group, will be over 5 feet high and nearly 3 feet across. It will be used during major liturgical celebrations at which the Holy Father presides.

The use of recyclable materials will highlight the keen interest in ecological issues that are especially high on the agenda in the Amazon basin.

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