Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Brazilians Welcome Pope but Question His Perspective

Pictured:The Roman Catholic Church has lost ground in Brazil to Pentecostalism in recent years, and Catholic churches across Brazil have incorporated charismatic or Afro-Brazilian rites into their services.

SÃO PAULO, Brazil, May 8 — Pope Benedict XVI arrives here Wednesday for his first foray into Latin America, hoping to stanch the church’s steady loss of followers in the region. But some of the faithful frankly wonder whether an 80-year-old pontiff from Germany can speak to their needs.
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Today only two-thirds of Brazilians consider themselves Catholics, according to a recent church-endorsed survey.

Much of that ground has been lost to surging Pentecostalism in a region that has traditionally been home to nearly half the world’s Catholics.
One never knows what the ill winds will bring when arbitrarily throwing open the windows to let in the "fresh air"...

The challenge from Pentecostalism, say theologians and other religious experts, is likely to be one of the most important challenges of Benedict’s papacy. Philip Jenkins, a professor of religious studies at Penn State University who has written several books about the church in the developing world, called the spread of Pentecostalism in Latin America “the greatest single crisis facing the Catholic Church worldwide.”

Some segments of the Latin American church have responded by emphasizing the theology of liberation, which merges faith and politics. Others have incorporated Afro-Brazilian and indigenous rites into the Mass.

Another increasingly popular response has been the emergence of a charismatic renewal movement, which borrows liberally from the Pentecostal liturgy. Its most visible symbol is a young priest named Marcelo Rossi, a former personal trainer who is a devotee of the Virgin Mary and the rosary.

Blessed with matinee-idol looks and a strong singing voice, he draws thousands to the concrete warehouse where he celebrates his televised Masses. He has sold millions of records and even starred in a movie.

“I come here because the Mass is relaxed and informal, gets me more involved than at my old church and transmits a feeling of happiness,” Edilanis Diniz, a 31-year-old store clerk, said one recent Sunday as Father Rossi sang “God is a 10” to a rock ‘n’ roll beat. “I think this is the right path for the church, especially for young people.”
That's right - the Holy Mass is supposed to be "relaxed and informal"...It should "transmit a feeling of happiness"...As we read in the Gospel accounts of Calvary, that, too, was a happy, relaxed and informal time for all...

But then, I'm not surprised that there exists a warped understanding of the Mass. Numerous others have commented and lamented this fact for the past 40 years.

Catholics in Brazil may be faring no better than other Catholics in the West, having a foundation of Faith built on sand, there will be no surprise when the first storm or tide washes away whatever they have built...

The stories and accounts of the "Catholicism" of Brazil, generally, seem depressing to me.

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