A Pope so close to politics and so far away from Latin America
Days before starting his trip, he lashed out against Mexican MPs that supported abortion laws. Condoms are not to be prescribed to pilgrims as they go against Christian values. Thus, teenage pregnancy is an ever present event in a Latin America society. Furthermore, UNAIDS reports HIV/Aids rates are growing fast in Latin America and the Caribbean too.During his trip, Pope Benedict has spoken out against sex outside of marriage. He also expressed concern about the growing rate of divorce and deteriorating sanctity of marriage and family. But in most of Latin America prevails the single mother family. The pontiff severely criticized legal reforms that have had “a negative impact on society”, referring to recent changes in some countries allowing same-sex unions.
Brazil is the world's second-largest consumer of cocaine after the United States. The pontiff has also warned drug dealers of Divine Justice. God will call drug traffickers to account for their deeds. But justice distribution has long been the subject of questioning. Are traffickers and drug dealers controlling it or not? Is the Pope giving the last rites unction to Brazil’s fight against such crime? Is his message calling for relaxation of the fight against drug and crime in this world as there will surely be a punishment in the afterlife? A100-thousand-dollar donation to a rehab clinic in Brazil seems to fall short of all efforts needed. In the years to come, Governmental campaigns against drug trafficking and consumption in the region might be severely affected by his attitude.
As a prescription against unequal income distribution and widespread poverty, Pope Benedict has called for greater efforts to improve Catholic education in the region. But he also called for paramount efforts to counter the spread of Protestant congregations. Such recommendation aims at campaigning for Catholicism. The pontiff is trying to rebuild the Church's influence in Latin America. In Brazil alone, the percentage of Catholics fell more than 15 per cent in the last 20 years. Evangelical Protestants rose 8 per cent. Therefore, the church worries about the increasing signs that show losing the nearly half the world's 1.1 billion Catholics to the increasing and luring Protestant groups. On Sunday, there was concern at Aparecida, Brazil. Just 80 per cent of expected pilgrims turned up to see the pontiff off.
On Saturday, Liberation theologian Leonardo Boff made the very Catholic Church accountable for such faith migration. Known for his active support for the rights of the poor and excluded, Boff has advocated for a more open and tolerant Church. In 1985, Boff himself was silenced for his liberal views by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger -now Pope Benedict XVI – as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
On Sunday morning, Pope Benedict XVI rejected leftist ideas of Christianity but readily adopted an anti politics stand. At a mass in Aparecida, he claimed the Church is neither political nor an economic system. He said it was a love religion. But despite expressing concern over authoritarian governments and Marxist movements in some countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, the Pope fell short to consider the participation of right wing factions of the Catholic Church in regional politics. No wonder, there has been no word on the Cult-like Opus Dei meddling in Latin American politics. Their power strategies have become muted long ago. This has long remained an unaddressed issue in his papal speech as they have been involved and connected to dictatorships in the region.
Prior to his departure from Brazil, the pontiff inaugurated the Latin American Episcopal Conference (Celam) which gathers 266 Roman Catholic bishops of Latin America. This time, it will set up a strategy to gain ground for Christianity. Celam conference will last until May 31st, 2007. Created in 1955 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Celam pushed the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) and the Conference of Puebla in 1979. It has held both progressive and conservative views in the past.