POPE FRANCIS URGES YOUTH: 'SHAKE UP' YOUR DIOCESES / WRAPS UP WYD WITH MASS AT COPACOBANA BEACH, RIO DE JANEIRO
 


POPE FRANCIS FEVER IN RIO (Reuters/AP) – Seen from a window of a hotel, tens of thousands of Catholic faithful crowd the streets at Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro on July 25, 2013, waiting for the arrival of Pope Francis who is on his fourth day of his week-long visit to Brazil for the World Youth Day celebration. Inset shows the Pope pointing up to indicate the falling rain as he addresses the youth.

RIO DE JANEIRO, AP, July 29, 2013
(MANILA BULLETIN) Shake up Dioceses, Pope urges youth

Pope Francis showed his rebel side Thursday, urging young Catholics to shake up the church and make a “mess” in their dioceses by going out into the streets to spread the faith. It’s a message he put into practice by visiting one of Rio’s most violent slums and opening the church’s World Youth Day on a rain-soaked Copacabana Beach.

Francis was elected pope on a mandate to reform the church, and in four short months he has started doing just that: He has broken long-held Vatican rules on everything from where he lays his head at night to how saints are made. He has cast off his security detail to get close to his flock, and his first international foray as pope has shown the faithful appreciate the gesture.

Dubbed the “slum pope” for his work with the poor, Francis received a rapturous welcome in the Varginha shantytown, part of a slum area of northern Rio so violent it’s known as the Gaza Strip. The 76-year-old Argentine seemed entirely at home, wading into cheering crowds, kissing people young and old and telling them the Catholic Church is on their side.

“No one can remain insensitive to the inequalities that persist in the world!” Francis told a crowd of thousands who braved a cold rain and stood in a muddy soccer field to welcome him. “No amount of peace-building will be able to last, nor will harmony and happiness be attained in a society that ignores, pushes to the margins or excludes a part of itself.”

It was a message aimed at reversing the decline in the numbers of Catholics in most of Latin America, with many poor worshippers leaving the church for Pentecostal and evangelical congregations. Those churches have taken up a huge presence in favelas, or shantytowns such as Varginha, attracting souls with nuts-and-bolts advice on how to improve their lives.

The Varginha visit was one of the highlights of Francis’ weeklong trip to Brazil, his first as pope and one seemingly tailor-made for the first pontiff from the Americas.

The surprise, though, came during his encounter with Argentine pilgrims, scheduled at the last minute in yet another sign of how this spontaneous pope is shaking up the Vatican’s staid and often stuffy protocol.

He told the thousands of youngsters, with an estimated 30,000 Argentines registered, to get out into the streets and spread their faith and make a “mess,” saying a church that doesn’t go out and preach simply becomes a civic or humanitarian group.

“I want to tell you something. What is it that I expect as a consequence of World Youth Day? I want a mess. We knew that in Rio there would be great disorder, but I want trouble in the dioceses!” he said, speaking off the cuff in his native Spanish. “I want to see the church get closer to the people. I want to get rid of clericalism, the mundane, this closing ourselves off within ourselves, in our parishes, schools or structures. Because these need to get out!”

Apparently realizing the radicalness of his message, he apologized in advance to the bishops at home.

FROM THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

‘Rebel’ Pope urges youth to ‘make a mess’ in dioceses Associated Press 1:58 am | Saturday, July 27th, 2013


Pope Francis waves from his popemobile as he makes his way into central Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Monday, July 22, 2013. The pontiff arrived for a seven-day visit in Brazil, the world’s most populous Roman Catholic nation. AP Photo

RIO DE JANEIRO—Pope Francis showed his rebel side on Thursday, urging young Catholics to shake up the Church and make a “mess” in their dioceses by going out into the streets to spread the faith.

It’s a message he put into practice by visiting one of Rio’s most violent slums and opening the Church’s World Youth Day on a rain-soaked Copacabana Beach.

Francis was elected Pope on a mandate to reform the Church, and in four short months he has started doing just that: He has broken long-held Vatican rules on everything from where he lays his head at night to how saints are made. He has cast off his security detail to get close to his flock and his first international foray as Pope has shown the faithful appreciate the gesture.

Dubbed the “slum Pope” for his work with the poor, Francis received a rapturous welcome in the Varginha shantytown, part of a slum area of northern Rio so violent it’s known as the Gaza Strip.

At home in slums

The 76-year-old Argentine seemed entirely at home, wading into cheering crowds, kissing people young and old and telling them the Catholic Church is on their side.

“No one can remain insensitive to the inequalities that persist in the world,” Francis told a crowd of thousands who braved a cold rain and stood in a muddy soccer field to welcome him. “No amount of peace-building will be able to last, nor will harmony and happiness be attained in a society that ignores, pushes to the margins or excludes a part of itself.”

It was a message aimed at reversing the decline in the numbers of Catholics in most of Latin America, with many poor worshippers leaving the church for Pentecostal and evangelical congregations. Those churches have taken up a huge presence in favelas, or shantytowns such as Varginha, attracting souls with nuts-and-bolts advice on how to improve their lives.

The Varginha visit was one of the highlights of Francis’ weeklong trip to Brazil, his first as Pope and one seemingly tailor-made for the first pontiff from the Americas.

Surprise encounter

The surprise, though, came during his encounter with Argentine pilgrims, scheduled at the last minute in yet another sign of how this spontaneous Pope is shaking up the Vatican’s staid and often stuffy protocol.

He told the thousands of youngsters, with an estimated 30,000 Argentines registered, to get out into the streets and spread their faith and make a “mess,” saying a church that doesn’t go out and preach simply becomes a civic or humanitarian group.

“I want to tell you something. What is it that I expect as a consequence of World Youth Day? I want a mess. We knew that in Rio there would be great disorder, but I want trouble in the dioceses!” he said, speaking off the cuff in his native Spanish. “I want to see the church get closer to the people. I want to get rid of clericalism, the mundane, this closing ourselves off within ourselves, in our parishes, schools or structures. Because these need to get out!”

Apparently realizing the radicalness of his message, he apologized in advance to the bishops at home.

Later Thursday, he traveled in his open-sided car through a huge crowd in the pouring rain to a welcoming ceremony on Copacabana beach. It was his first official event with the hundreds of thousands of young people who have flocked to Rio for World Youth Day. Vatican officials estimated the crowd at 1 million.

Cheering pilgrims from 175 nations lined the beachfront drive to catch a glimpse of the pontiff, with many jogging along with the vehicle behind police barricades. The car stopped several times for Francis to kiss babies—and take a long sip of his beloved mate, the traditional Argentine tea served in a gourd with a straw, which was handed up to him by someone in the crowd.

After he arrived at the beach-front stage, though, the crowd along the streets melted away, driven home by the pouring rain that brought out vendors selling the plastic ponchos that have adorned cardinals and pilgrims alike during this unseasonably cold, wet week.

In an indication of the havoc wreaked by four days of steady showers, organizers made an almost unheard-of change in the festival’s agenda, moving the Saturday vigil and climactic Sunday Mass to Copacabana Beach from a rural area 30 miles (50 kilometers) from the city center. The terrain of the area, Guaratiba, had turned into a vast field of mud, making the overnight camping plans of pilgrims untenable.

The news was welcome to John White, a 57-year-old chaperone from the Albany, New York, diocese who attended the past five World Youth Days and complained that organization in Rio was lacking.

After John Paul II

“I’m super relieved. That place is a mud pit and I was concerned about the kids’ health and that they might catch hypothermia,” he said. “That’s great news. I just wish the organizers would have told us.”

Francis’ visit to the Varginha slum followed in the footsteps of Pope John Paul II, who visited two such favelas during a 1980 trip to Brazil, and Mother Teresa, who visited Varginha itself in 1972. Her Missionaries of Charity order has kept a presence in the shantytown ever since.

Like Mother Teresa, Francis brought his own personal history to the visit: As archbishop of Buenos Aires, then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio frequently preached in the poverty-wracked slums of his native city, putting into action his belief that the Catholic Church must go to the farthest peripheries to preach and not sit back and wait for the most marginalized to come to Sunday Mass.

Francis’ open-air car was mobbed on a few occasions as he headed into Varginha’s heavily policed, shack-lined streets, but he never seemed in danger.

He was showered with gifts as he walked down one of the slum’s main drags without an umbrella to shield him from the rain. A well-wisher gave him a paper lei to hang around his neck and he held up another offering—a scarf from his favorite soccer team, Buenos Aires’ San Lorenzo.

Don’t lose hope

“Events like this, with the Pope and all the local media, get everyone so excited,” said Antonieta de Souza Costa, a 56-year-old vendor and resident of Varginha. “I think this visit is going to bring people back to the Catholic Church.”

Addressing Varginha’s residents, Francis acknowledged that young people in particular have a sensitivity toward injustice.

“You are often disappointed by facts that speak of corruption on the part of people who put their own interests before the common good,” Francis told the crowd. “To you and all, I repeat: Never yield to discouragement, do not lose trust, do not allow your hope to be extinguished.”

FROM THE INQUIRER

Pope wraps up historic trip with Copacabana Mass Associated Press


Pope Francis celebrates Mass on Copacabana beach, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, July 28, 2013. Francis wrapped up is historic trip to his home continent Sunday with a Mass that drew a reported 3 million people. AP PHOTO/VICTOR R. CAIVANO

RIO DE JANEIRO—Pope Francis wrapped up a historic trip to his home continent Sunday with a Mass on Copacabana beach that drew a reported 3 million people, who cheered the first Latin American pope in a remarkable response to his message that the Catholic Church must shake itself up and get out into the streets to find the faithful.

Francis urged the young people on hand for World Youth Day’s concluding Mass to go out and spread their faith “to the fringes of society, even to those who seem farthest away, most indifferent.”

“The Church needs you, your enthusiasm, your creativity and the joy that is so characteristic of you,” he said to applause.

Nearly the entire 4-kilometer (2.5-mile) crescent of Copacabana’s broad beach overflowed with people, some of them taking an early morning dip in the Atlantic and others tossing t-shirts, flags and soccer jerseys into the pontiff’s open-sided car as he drove by heading to the service. Francis worked the crowd, kissing babies, taking a sip of mate tea handed up to him and catching gifts on the fly.

Even the normally stern-faced Vatican bodyguards let smiles slip as they jogged alongside Francis’ car, caught up in the enthusiasm of the crowd.

Many of the youngsters on hand for the Mass spent the night on the beach, an all-night slumber party to end the Catholic youth fest that had a joyous Latin air, with pilgrims wrapped in flags and sleeping bags to ward off the cold. They danced, prayed and sang—and stood in long lines in front of the armadas of portable bathrooms along the beachfront and in.

‘Great experience’

“We were dying of cold but it was worth it,” said Lucrecia Grillera, an 18-year-old from Cordoba, Argentina, where Francis lived for a time before becoming pope. “It was a tiring day, but it was a great experience.”

By morning, the beach and adjoining Atlantic Avenue looked like an improvised refugee camp plunked down in the middle of one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Copacabana’s famous mosaic sidewalks were strewn with trampled cardboard, plastic bags, empty water bottles and cookie wrappers and the stench of garbage and human waste hung in the humid air as trash collectors in orange uniforms tried to restore order.

Vendors hawking World Youth Day trinkets, t-shirts, hats and flags did brisk business as pilgrims snapped up souvenirs before heading home. Jehovah’s Witnesses stood by stands stocked with pamphlets on “What does the Bible really teach,” but they had few takers.

The Vatican said more than 3 million people were on hand for the Mass, based on information from World Youth Day organizers and local authorities who estimated two thirds were from outside Rio. That was far higher than the 1 million at the last World Youth Day in Madrid in 2011 or the 850,000 at Toronto’s 2002 concluding Mass.

Not all of them were paying attention to the Mass: Kids posed for random photos with people holding flags, snoozed and packed up their makeshift camps. Finding food was a core concern, with long lines of bedraggled pilgrims snaking out of cafes and ice cream vendors mobbed by youths starved for breakfast.

The presidents of Brazil, Francis’ native Argentina, Bolivia and Suriname were on hand for the Mass, as were the vice presidents of Uruguay and Panama. Receiving a special honor was a couple Francis met on Saturday after Mass at Rio’s cathedral; they had brought him their anencephalic baby daughter to be blessed. Francis invited them to participate in the offertory procession on Sunday, at which the father wore a t-shirt that read “Stop abortion.”

After Sunday’s Mass, Francis was meeting with the bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as holding a thank-you audience with some of the 60,000 volunteers who organized the youth festival. He was leaving for Rome Sunday night.

‘Sense of peace’

“It was such an excellent week, everybody was in such good spirit, you could just feel a sense of peace,” said Denise da Silva, a Rio de Janeiro Catholic who was sitting alone on the beach Sunday morning, a Brazilian flag painted on her face. “I have never seen something here in Rio so marvelous as what we have just lived.”

Francis has spent the week emphasizing a core message: of the need for Catholics, lay and religious, to shake up the status quo, get out of their stuffy sacristies and reach the faithful on the margins of society or risk losing them to rival churches.

According to census data, the number of Catholics in Brazil dipped from 125 million in 2000 to 123 million in 2010, with the church’s share of the total population dropping from 74 percent to 65 percent. During the same time period, the number of evangelical Protestants and Pentecostals skyrocketed from 26 million to 42 million, increasing from 15 percent to 22 percent of the population in 2010.

He repeated the message Sunday in his homily, saying he was counting on young Catholics in particular to be “missionary disciples” and spread the faith.

“Bringing the Gospel is bringing God’s power to pluck up and break down evil and violence, to destroy and overthrow the barriers and selfishness, intolerance and hatred, so as to build a new world,” he said.

It seemed the message was getting through.

“You feel that he really connected with people here,” said the Rev. Jean-Luc Zadroga, a Benedictine monk who was leading a group of 14 students from a Catholic university in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. “He’s really trying to reach out to Catholics who have fallen away from the Church or disappointed with the Church and I think it’s working.”—Jenny Barchfield with Marco Sibaja and Bradley Brooks


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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