Pope Francis is in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Francis, in his epic trip to Latin America, drew in his last Mass an estimated of 3 million people to Copacabana Beach. The response of young Catholics has been very positive; among them there is feeling that he is a reformer, an environmentalist and embraces dialogue.
The church faces an exodus in Brazil, according to census data, the number of Brazilian faithful has dropped from almost 90 percent to 65 percent. While the Church lost believers, the evangelical Protestants and Pentecostals increased their faithful from 15 percent to 22 percent.
Catholics around the world have been wondering the role of the new pope in the globe, therefore, Francis´ message in Brazil gives us an idea of what to expect in the next pontificate.
The church has often been criticized for being way too pompous, however, Francis has offered a message of simplicity and humility from the beginning, he said when arrived to Rio de Janeiro, “I don´t have silver or gold, but I bring with me the most precious gift: Jesus Christ!”
Also, during a speech in Rio´s Cathedral, Francis urged bishops and clerics to go and work with the people, for the people. “We cannot keep ourselves shut up in parishes, in our communities, when so many people are waiting for the gospel.”
Recently, Brazil faced protests around the nation due to government corruption. Also, for the money the government spend organizing the World Cup and the Olympics, about the issue Francis said, “Between selfish indifference and violent protest there is always another possible option, and the key to developing a just and fair society as a leader is dialogue, dialogue, dialogue.”
In front of many young Catholics, he expressed, “Keep overcoming apathy and offering a Christian response to the social and political concerns taking place in different parts of the world.”
Francis asked the faithful to act as Catholics all the time, in all their actions, avoid to be “part-time Christians.” “Jesus offers us something bigger than the World Cup!”
In another hand, Francis is trying to build a bridge of understanding between people. Former Benedict XVI, due to his intellectual message, hardly connected with people as John Paul II did. “As times we lose people because they don´t understand what we are saying, because we have forgotten the language of simplicity and import an intellectualism foreign to our people.” Francis also added, “Without the grammar of simplicity, the church loses the very conditions which make it possible to fish for God in the deep waters of his mystery.”
May be one of the most important sentences critics and faithful in general were waiting to hear from Francis was his idea of world constantly changing, “Perhaps the church appeared too weak, perhaps too distant from their needs, perhaps too poor to respond to their concerns, perhaps to cold, perhaps to caught up with itself, perhaps a prisoner of its own rigid formulas.” Francis claimed out loud, “Perhaps the world seems to have made the church a relic of the past unfit for the new questions. Perhaps the church could speak to people in their infancy but not to those come of age.”
The world is debating international human rights, as is the case of same-sex-marriage and abortion, Francis has not expressed support for neither, however, Francis believes in dialogue and understanding, “We need a church capable of rediscovering the maternal womb of mercy. Without mercy, we have little chance nowadays of becoming part of the world of wounded persons in need of understanding, forgiveness and love.”
According with the Washington Post, in 2005, U.S. nun and Amazon defender, Dorothy Stang was murdered by one gunman while working for the Amazon´s cause. Francis expressed the commitment of the church with the region and said, “The church´s presence in the Amazon basin is not that someone with bags packed and ready to leave after having exploited everything possible.”
Francis with his first official visit to Brazil certainly moved the hearts of Catholics. Moreover, during his trip Francis made news around the globe, Elizabeth Tenety, from the Washington Post, called it, “Francis effect;” Tenety added, “he´s been compared to Princess Diana and called the people´s pope.” Undoubtedly, Francis is a revolutionary. To start with, he carried his own luggage onto the plane before leaving for Brazil.
By: Oskar Guzman
Special Correspondent Mexico and Canada.