RIO DE JANEIRO — A month ago, hundreds of thousands of young people took to the streets of Brazil to protest corruption, wasteful government spending, bad schools and hospitals, police brutality, and other abuses of power. On Monday, Pope Francis, in his first venture abroad, will dive into the middle of that ferment when he begins a weeklong visit to the world’s largest Roman Catholic country.Read the rest here.
“This is a crucial moment for the church, the nation, society and the people, heightened by the fact this is Francis’ first trip,” said Fernando Altemeyer Jr., a theologian and philosopher at the Pontifical Catholic University in São Paulo. “Brazil has changed and things are bubbling, but there is no clarity. Everything is new and unknown, in the country and the church, even for the bishops.”
Francis has endorsed the protests in general terms, and, according to European news reports, will do so again more emphatically and specifically this week. Church officials here declined to confirm those reports, but they said that two Brazilian cardinals, Cláudio Hummes and Raymundo Damasceno Assis, have been working closely with the Vatican to assure that Francis’ declarations on social justice here will convey sympathy both for the protest demands and those involved in the movement.
There is a great deal that I admire about this Pope including his very real modesty and concern for the poor. I also like (no surprise) his deemphasizing of the imperial papacy in favor of his role as Bishop of Rome. That said, he does seem to be rather narrowly focused on the social justice issue and some of his views put him way to the left in political and economic terms. Also there has been scant emphasis on church doctrine, discipline and morals since his accession to the papal throne. Has he even addressed the issue of abortion once since then? One also notes the Vatican seems to have gone largely silent on the subject of gay marriage. And while his personal lifestyle is commendable, his extremely "low church" approach to liturgy is disquieting. It seems to hint at the end of the liturgical counterrevolution that followed decades of horrific abuses in the name of Vatican II.
Still, it's early days. I suspect we will have a clearer picture of things next summer.