Brazil

Pope Delights Crowds With Message of Reform

Photo courtesy RNS.

Pope Francis donned a headdress at a ceremony in the city´s grand municipal theater. Photo courtesy RNS.

In one of the most inclusive gestures of his visit here, Pope Francis donned a headdress offered to him from an indigenous South American Indian at a ceremony in the city´s grand municipal theater.

The gesture was greeted with shouts of surprise initially. Then the audience of Brazilian politicians and business people erupted into roars of approval and thunderous applause.

It was a compelling moment. Moments earlier, the pope had spoken about the state´s responsibility to respect and encourage “peaceful coexistence between different religions.”

Pope to Brazilians: Don’t Ignore the Periphery

Photo courtesy RNS.

People attending the opening Mass held on Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro. Photo courtesy RNS.

It’s not every day that the pope drops in for a visit to your home. But Maria da Penha dos Santos lucked out when Pope Francis chose to enter her small yellow two-story house in the rundown slum of Varginha.

The Thursday morning visit came on the fourth day of the pontiff’s weeklong World Youth Day tour. Santos’ house was one of seven earmarked for a visit.

She was waiting outside with her husband, daughter, and granddaughter when the pope stopped in front and told her “we have a beautiful family and he had loved us even before we had met.”

Pope Francis to Encounter a Church in Crisis in Brazil

Photo courtesy RNS.

Cardinal Jorge M. Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, celebrating mass at the XX Exposición del Libro Católico. Photo courtesy RNS.

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.

Tweet Your Way Out of Purgatory (But There’s Work Involved)

Photo courtesy RNS.

La Divina Commedia di Dante (Dante and the Divine Comedy). Photo courtesy RNS.

Following Pope Francis’ Twitter feed may be good for your soul — both in this life and the next.

The spiritual leader of the Roman Catholic Church plans to grant plenary indulgences by Twitter during the World Youth Day, which will be held July 23-28 in Brazil.

The indulgences, which Catholics believe can reduce the time a soul spends in purgatory, will be available to Francis’ nearly 7.5 million Twitter followers in all languages — if they tune in to World Youth Day broadcasts or take other spiritual actions. To get an indulgence, Catholics must have already had their sins absolved by a priest.

Learning to Love Complexity

Blue vintage globe map photo courtesy Shutterstock.

Blue vintage globe map photo courtesy Shutterstock.

Tumult in Egypt reminds me how complicated the world can be, especially for a culture like our own that is shaped by good guy vs. bad guy dramas.

Who are the “good guys” in Cairo? Is the ousted president a good guy for being democratically elected or a bad guy for pursuing isolationist Islamic policies? Is the military saving Egypt or preserving privileges?

It isn’t just the inherent complexity of any human situation. It’s the complexity of societies that have rules and histories quite unlike our own.

Brazilians and Football: From Passion to Protest

Brazilian riots, photo by Francisco Neto / Flickr.com

Brazilian riots, photo by Francisco Neto / Flickr.com

Brazil and the World Cup are in the news now, but not in the way that pleases the Brazilian government. Crowds are gathering in the streets around football (soccer) stadiums where Confederation Cup games are being played but not to buy tickets or get autographs of their sports idols. They are congregating to protest against the 2014 World Cup coming to Brazil. Brazilians protesting football? Upset about hosting the World Cup? Something has gone seriously wrong. This is like the French boycotting wine or Italians accusing pasta of undermining family values.

Even Americans, confused as we are about why the rest of world insists on calling soccer “football,” know that the outcome of a football match can launch an entire nation into elation or despair. But no matter the sport, fans around the world follow the same emotional pattern: they are up when their team is up and down when they are down. World Cup championships played out on a global stage provide the winning nation with an outsized cathartic event for the pent up frustrations that accumulate with the stress and strains of daily life. And even without streets clogged with protestors, if you are a football fan living in one of Brazil’s major cities, the typical daily grind is almost unbearable. Here’s an account from an Al Jazeera reporter who lives in Brazil:

It is 8am and a bunch of people line up to get on a bus on Faria Lima Avenue in Sao Paulo. This may be their third transfer in the daily ordeal of travelling to work from the outskirts of Sao Paulo. When the bus slows down, people start to nudge right or left, hoping not to be left behind. Once they get on, it is so full that finding a little space to stand is only for the truly crafty. 

After a one-hour journey through the infamous Sao Paulo traffic and pothole-ridden roads, crammed in with 100-plus people, it feels more like a ride on a rodeo horse than a means of transportation — all at a cost of 3.20 Brazilian Reals ($1.50) and your dignity. 

Brazilian Evangelist Has Big Plans for U.S.

RNS photo by Andre Tartar

Apostle Valdemiro Santiago, founder of the Worldwide Church of God’s Power. RNS photo by Andre Tartar

NEW YORK — The apostle bellowed in Portuguese to a packed crowd in a rented Astoria, Queens, church.

“Get out, spirit of death. Now you are burnt, now you are plucked out by my God!”

A blood-curdling shriek rose from one of the front pews, but Apostle Valdemiro Santiago, founder of the Worldwide Church of God’s Power, didn’t flinch.

“Don’t be afraid, church, by these screams,” Santiago reassured the crowd. “They are the evil spirits being defeated.”

Fourteen years after he started out in the countryside outside Sao Paulo, Santiago sits at the helm of a booming Pentecostal church in Brazil, the world’s fastest-growing evangelical country. He now leads 4,000 churches, including 10 in the United States, where fiery worship and exorcisms form part of the appeal.

Breakaway Anglican Bishop, Wife Found Murdered in Brazil

A conservative Brazilian bishop who broke away from his church over the consecration of an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire was found murdered with his wife in the northeastern town of Olinda, according to the diocese.
   
Bishop Robinson Cavalcanti and his wife Miriam were found dead on Sunday (Feb. 26). Their adopted son, Eduardo, is a suspect in the stabbing deaths, church officials said.
   
Conservative Anglican media sites reported that Cavalcanti was returning from a parish visit.
   
Cavalcanti launched the breakaway Anglican Church -- Diocese of Recife after Bishop V. Gene Robinson was consecrated as the Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire in 2003.

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