VARIOUS: Pope Benedict soon to leave for Brazil in a continent where the Catholic church faces an uncertain future
- Title: VARIOUS: Pope Benedict soon to leave for Brazil in a continent where the Catholic church faces an uncertain future
- Date: 8th May 2007
- Summary: (BN16) VATICAN CITY (MAY 7, 2007) (REUTERS) VARIOUS VATICAN CITY (SOUNDBITE) (Italian) VATICAN SPOKESMAN FATHER FEDERICO LOMBARDI SAYING: "I've never seen the Pope agitated or nervous. I've always seen him in complete control of himself and very calm even in worrying moments that could have caused big problems. On the occasion of his trip to Turkey I always saw him composed and it was a very hard trip. For his trip to Latin America he will go with great composure and faith, certain of bringing a message of faith and encouragement of love and peace.'
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- Topics: Religion
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- Story Text: Pope Benedict on Wednesday (May 9) starts his first trip to Latin America to face a continent where a vibrant Church that is home to nearly half of the world's Catholics faces an uncertain future and falling numbers.
Speaking on Sunday (May 6) Pope Benedict called for the faithful in St.Peter's square to pray for him and a successful trip.
"It is my first visit to Latin America and I am spiritually preparing myself to meet the Latin American subcontinent where nearly half the world's Catholics live, many of them young people," Pope Benedict said as some held up banners reading 'Good Trip'.
"That is why it has been called the continent of hope: a hope that regards not only the Church, but all America and the whole world," the Pope said.
The main purpose of the trip is to make a keynote address in the city of Aparecida to open a major conference of Latin American bishops, who will discuss strategy for the Church.
As the Latin American Church looks at its future, one main question will be why it is losing tens of millions of members to protestant sects such as the Evangelical and the Pentecostal churches.
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the pontiff is looking forward to the experience.
"I've never seen the Pope agitated or nervous. I've always seen him in complete control of himself and very calm even in worrying moments that could have caused big problems," Lombardi said.
"On the occasion of his trip to Turkey I always saw him composed and it was a very hard trip. For his trip to Latin America he will go with great composure and faith, certain of bringing a message of faith and encouragement of love and peace," Lombardi said.
But the May 9-14 trip to Brazil, will be a personal challenge to the Pope, who is still associated with crackdowns on Liberation Theology in the 1980s when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
It will also be the furthest the Pope has travelled since taking over from his Predecessor John Paul II on April 19, 2005.
"The people of Latin America have already met two previous popes, Pope Paul VI and then many times, Pope John Paul II," Lombardi said.
"They therefore expect to have a direct meeting with the Pope and to meet him in their land. Pope Benedict XVI knows this very well and has chosen the occasion of the Episcopal meeting of Latin America, a great event, in which all contingents of the church will meet and which will address all the biggest problems of the church in this great continent." he said.
The legacy of Pope John Paul II is also a hard act to follow. Vatican officials expect inevitable comparisons with the late Pope John Paul, who visited Latin America 18 times during his papacy of nearly 27 years and had an easy relationship with the more expressive outward culture of its people.
The late pontiff often brought up the issue of abortion on his trips calling it a "crime" and "shame of humanity."
It is not clear whether Pope Benedict will be discussing such issues. Expected on the agenda will likely be the Church's role in helping the poor, the crippling shortage of priests, and how it will deal with growing secularisation in a globalised world.
One thing for sure is that no one wants a repeat of Pope Benedict's trip to Germany where the Pope quoted a 14th century Byzantine emperor as saying Islam had only brought evil to the world and that it was spread by the sword, a method that was unreasonable and contrary to God's nature.
The Pope later said he regretted any misunderstanding it caused among Muslims after protests attacks occurred on churches in the Middle East and the killing of a nun in Somalia.
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- Embargoed:23rd May 2007 13:00