Pope will broach protests during upcoming Brazil visit

Country’s Catholic leaders have sided with the demonstrators in their demands for change

Pope Francis greeting the faithful at the Vatican last month.
Pope Francis greeting the faithful at the Vatican last month.ALESSANDRO DI MEO (EFE)

Pope Francis I, who will arrive in Brazil on July 22 for his first visit to the Americas since being elected in March, has been keeping a close eye on the ongoing nationwide protests aimed at demanding social, political and economic change.

The pope will touch on the demonstrations when he addresses the more than one million young people expected to gather in Rio de Janeiro for the Catholic Church’s World Youth Day, sources have told EL PAÍS.

The pope already had his speech written when he was informed about the explosion of nightly rallies that began on June 6. He then rewrote part of his address so that he could broach the issue, the sources said. According to the pope, the demands on the Brazilian government for improved living conditions do not go against the Church’s teachings, the sources added.

Three top Brazilian Catholic officials spoke to the pope in Rome when the protests broke out in the streets across major cities, with some of the gatherings turning violent. Because of the social and political consequences, they wanted to speak to him in person and not via the usual diplomatic channels, the sources said.

Orani João Tempesta, the archbishop of Rio and organizer of World Youth Day, was the first to meet with the pontiff. About two weeks ago, São Paulo Archbishop Cláudio Hummes, who is considered a leading representative of social causes – at the end of the 1970s and beginning of the 1980s he opened the doors of the church to striking workers – flew to Rome to discuss the situation with the pope. Hummes was considered one of the leading candidates during the conclave in March at which the Argentinean Pope Francis was elected.

Then last week, the leader of Brazil’s Episcopal Conference (CNBB), Cardinal Raymundo Damasceno, held a meeting with the pope.

On June 21 after two days of meetings, the CNBB announced that it supported the demonstrations. “We, the bishops of the permanent council of Brazil’s Episcopal Conference, meeting in Brasilia from June 19 to June 21, declare our solidarity and support for the demonstrations – as long as they are peaceful – which have been held in the streets by people of all ages, especially the young,” the statement read.

Pope Francis was given a copy of the document in which the bishops also point out that protestors are demanding an end to corruption and impunity, besides greater government transparency.

In an interview with Globo TV, Rio Archbishop Orani said that the “majority of the young people who have come out on the streets want a new and fairer Brazil.”

“This is in line with our thinking; we bishops are also seeking this,” he said.

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