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Pope Francis will find a Church in turmoil in Brazil

Social and religious upheaval prevails

<p>Picture: AFP/Yasuyoshi Chiba</p>

Picture: AFP/Yasuyoshi Chiba

  • Alessandro Speciale for Religion News Service
  • Vatican City
  • July 19, 2013
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Six years ago, then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires attended a gathering of Latin American bishops at the Marian shrine of Aparecida in Rio de Janeiro and called for the Roman Catholic Church to go toward the “outskirts, not only geographically but … existentially.”

Two years after the 2005 papal conclave where Bergoglio was the runner-up to Pope Benedict XVI, the speech helped raise his profile as a man to watch.

Next week, Bergoglio will return to Aparecida and Rio, this time as Pope Francis. Though he won’t visit his native Argentina, the visit will draw attention to Latin America’s first pope and his appeal for a poor church that eschews worldly power. 

Francis will arrive in Rio on Monday (July 22) to preside over World Youth Day, a triennial gathering of the world’s Catholic youth that is sometimes dubbed a “Catholic Woodstock” where papal star power takes center stage.

Brazil will encounter a pope unlike any in the church’s modern history, and Francis will find a church in crisis in the world’s most populous Catholic nation….

….Brazil is home to some 123 millions Catholics and more than 400 bishops. Despite these numbers, according to a report by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life published on Thursday, the Catholic share of Brazil’s population has shrunk from 92 percent in 1970 to 65 percent in 2010.

This is largely a consequence of the growth of the country’s evangelical and Protestant churches, which have surged from less than 5 million members 40 years ago to 42 million in the latest census.

Most worrisome, according to the report, the growth of Protestantism seems to be a consequence of “religious switching,” with the Catholic Church losing popularity among “younger Brazilians and city dwellers.” The trend seems to be accelerating in recent years, and World Youth Day’s organizers hope a charismatic pope can help revitalize the Brazilian church.

Disaffection with the church seems to reflect the wider discontentment in Brazilian society that erupted in unprecedented unrest that has shaken the country in recent weeks.

Full Story: Pope Francis to encounter a church in crisis in Brazil

Source: Religion News Service

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