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Posts tagged ‘Latin America’

Anti-Gay Evangelical Pastors Making Waves in Catholic Brazil.

evangelical rally in Brazil
About 40,000 people gathered outside Brazil’s Congress last week to show support for lawmakers who oppose abortion and same-sex marriage. (Facebook)

When televangelist Silas Malafaia gathered 40,000 followers outside Brazil’s Congress last week, it wasn’t just to raise their arms to the sky and praise the Lord.

The rally was a show of support for lawmakers who oppose abortion and same-sex marriage and a message to other politicians that they should not ignore Brazil’s fast-growing evangelical churches if they want to stay in office.

Gay activism is moral garbage,” Malafaia roared into the microphone to a cheering crowd on the grassy esplanade of the Brazilian capital. “Satan will not destroy our family values.”

The rise of evangelical Christians as a conservative political force in Latin America‘s largest nation has put the ruling Workers’ Party on guard and led President Dilma Rousseff—who is seeking re-election in 2014—to appoint an evangelical bishop to her cabinet.

The growing clout of evangelical churches is also bringing social and moral issues such as abortion to the center of the national agenda, some say at the expense of political and economic reforms needed to restore robust growth to the world’s seventh-largest economy.

Pentecostalism was introduced to Latin America by U.S. missionaries a century ago and has gained masses of followers in recent decades in countries like Brazil, especially among the urban poor who feel neglected by the dominant Catholic Church.

With their vibrant preaching, emotional prayer and singing, evangelical Protestant churches appeal to Brazilians more than the liturgical masses of the Catholic Church. They also use electronic and social media more effectively to proselytize.

Many Brazilians who join evangelical congregations say their new religion has brought meaning to their lives, that they no longer identified with the Catholic Church.

Brazil is the world’s largest Catholic nation and Pope Francis will travel to Rio de Janeiro next month on his first trip abroad as pontiff, in part to try to reverse the exodus away from Catholicism.

The Catholic Church is losing followers across Latin America—even among Hispanics in the United States—and opinion polls in Brazil point to the Church’s strict positions on sex and divorce as contributing factors.

A Datafolha survey in March found 58 percent of Brazilians believe the Catholic Church should accept divorce and 83 percent believe the use of condoms should be allowed, two issues where the Vatican has refused to budge and evangelical churches are more flexible, allowing followers to decide for themselves.

One in four Brazilians is an evangelical Christian today and their churches have multiplied and become wealthy institutions that own radio and television networks, finance political campaigns and even fund their own political parties.

While Catholic priests are banned from running for public office, evangelical churches actively encourage their pastors to engage in politics and often use the pulpit to persuade their followers who they should vote for.

“Today there are 44 million mainly Pentecostal evangelicals in Brazil, which is a large social force. Obviously, this was going to change things in Congress,” said Fernando Altemeyer, a former Catholic priest who teaches theology at the Catholic University of Sao Paulo.

In the last national election in 2010, evangelicals increased their presence in Congress by 50 percent and now have 68 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and three in the Senate. Though belonging to a dozen different parties, evangelicals have begun to act as a caucus in Brazil’s fragmented legislature where only the farm lobby tends to speak with one voice.

Anti-Gay Preacher
The evangelical presence in Congress has been very much in the public spotlight since one of its members, a conservative preacher known for his racist and anti-gay statements, was named chairman of the chamber’s Human Rights and Minorities Committee.

Pastor Marcos Feliciano, of the Social Christian Party, once stated that John Lennon‘s murder was divine retribution for saying the Beatles were more famous than Jesus Christ.

The committee’s sessions have been disrupted almost daily by demonstrators demanding Feliciano’s ouster. He has ordered guards to remove the protesters and closed the committee to the public. Congressmen from Rousseff’s Workers’ Party walked out, saying he was unfit to be chairman.

His backers say the longer the controversy lasts, the more votes evangelical candidates will get in the next election because he is defending traditional family values.

“He got 200,000 votes in the last election. Well, he won’t get less than 500,000 next time,” Malafaia said in an interview before his rally in Brasilia on Wednesday. “He’s on a roll.”

“The Workers’ Party is going to suffer in the next election because of the evangelical vote,” Malafaia predicted.

Rousseff has every reason to worry. In 2010, evangelical voters helped force the election to a runoff after abortion became a big issue late in the campaign and many votes went to her Green Party rival, Marina Silva, an evangelical Christian.

Last year, Rousseff named evangelical bishop Marcelo Crivella as her fisheries minister, even though he admitted publicly he knew little about fishing. Crivella is nephew of Edir Macedo, founder of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God. Bishop Macedo, a billionaire who owns the TV Record network, has 5 million followers and is a hugely influential power broker in Brazil.

“Rousseff is not going to do anything that would alienate the evangelicals,” said David Fleischer, political science professor at the University of Brasilia. “No candidate in their right mind would do that.”



Editing by Kieran Murray and Eric Walsh

© 2013 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.


Indictments Filed in $6B Money Laundering Ring.

Authorities say the founder of a Latin America-based currency system and six other people have been indicted in the United States in a $6 billion money-laundering scheme.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are expected to announce the charges on Tuesday afternoon.

Arthur Budovsky is the founder of Liberty Reserve, a currency system long favored by cybercrime scammers. He was arrested in Spain on Friday.

There also were arrests in Costa Rica and New York.

Authorities say the network processed at least 55 million illegal transactions worldwide. They call the international money-laundering case the largest ever.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Pope Francis Mulls Visit to Argentina.

Edward Pentin reporting from Rome — As Pope Francis confirmed his attendance this coming July to the Church’s World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the Vatican is currently mulling a visit to the Pontiff’s native Argentina on the same trip, Newsmax has learned.

Pope Benedict, before his abrupt resignation, had announced his plan to attend the global youth event, with organizers preparing for as many as 2.5 million attendees.

But the announcement of Francis’ ascension as the first Latin pope has caused Brazilian civil and church authorities to revise those estimates, placing the number of estimated visitors at 3.5 million or more.

In a bid to prevent logistical chaos, Brazil’s organizing officials have been urging the Vatican to add Buenos Aires onto the Pope’s itinerary for the July trip.

“We could see one million Argentinians show up in Brazil if he doesn’t go to Buenos Aires,” a Vatican source familiar with the World Youth Day told Newsmax.

Organizers hope a papal stop in the Argentine capital would prevent such a large number of his compatriots making the short trip to Rio for World Youth Day.

Pope Francis today confirmed via Twitter that he would be attending the July 23-28 event, tweeting: “I am looking forward to next July in Rio de Janeiro! I hope to see all of you in that great Brazilian city!”

Brazilian officials have become increasing nervous about their capacity to handle the influx of millions of visitors. Rio has a population of close to six million, but tourists are generally found in a narrow strip of land between the ocean and the city’s nearby mountains. Already the venue of the Youth event will be held miles south of the city in an open field.

And the event, sponsored by Sony Brazil, will feature a music concert after the Pope’s services. Organizers hope the concert will keep the millions of young people busy as the Pope, his entourage and other officials and dignitaries make their exit for Rio.

The office of Brazil’s President, Dilma Rousseff, said last week that the Pope would be visiting the world’s most Catholically-populated country, and meeting her in the capital Brasilia. A spokesman also said that the Brazilian government intends to sign an agreement with the Pope, the first in history, to battle poverty.

But Vatican sources say the Pope is concerned about returning to Argentina too quickly. The source noted that the Pope and Church officials are concerned about the October Argentinian elections and the perception his trip might interfere with local politics.

President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner invited the Pope to visit Argentina when they met privately March 18, but the Pope said his calendar was full during the dates she suggested. He told her that he would try to make time. As Cardinal Bergoglio, the Pope often criticized the Kirchner government over some of its policies.

For a pope to visit his native country so soon after being elected would not be unusual. In 2005, Benedict XVI attended a pre-planned World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany, just five months after his election.

And John Paul II first visited his native Poland in July 1979, nine months after he became pope. The visit was believed to have been historic for his nation and some believe led to the Solidarity movement.

As an Argentinian Cardinal and now Pope, Francis is said to be animated over the issue of rising evangelical movements in Latin America. The presence of the Pontiff would also be welcomed in the region as Latin American Catholics continue to be drawn to Pentecostal sects or have rejected the faith entirely. Over the past 13 years, the Catholic population of several Latin American countries has fallen by nearly a quarter.

Several activities have already been planned for Pope Francis in Brazil, including a visit to a favela and meetings with bishops and young people.

Organizers are also looking at the possibility that the Pope will visit other Brazilian cities during his trip, such as Aparecida where the nation’s shrine to the Virgin Mary is located.

The theme for WYD Rio 2013 is taken after Jesus’ command, “Go and make disciples of all peoples.”

The official program will be announced in late April.

Edward Pentin began reporting on the Vatican as a correspondent with Vatican Radio in 2002. He has covered the Pope and the Holy See for a number of publications, including Newsweek, and The Sunday Times. Read more reports from Edward Pentin — Click Here Now. 

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Edward Pentin

Evangelist Luis Palau Has Laid Hands on Pope Francis.

Luis Palau
Luis Palau

Argentine evangelist Luis Palau is convinced Pope Francis is a friend to the charismatic church—and to him.

As rumors began circulating that the first Latin American pope is also Spirit-filled, Palau told an audience at the Fort Lauderdale Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast on Thursday morning in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., that he has prayed with Pope Francis several times over the years.

“Pope Francis once told me some people are religious on the outside. They have been sprinkled but they are not reborn,” Palau, 78, said. “Give them the good news of Jesus Christ. I think he’s going to take that worldwide now that he’s in the Vatican.”

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who now goes by the name Pope Francis, hails from the same nation as Palau. Palau has preached the gospel for more than 50 years to more than 1 billion people around the world. Some call him the Latin American Billy Graham.

When he heard a fellow Argentine was named pope, he told The Oregonian, “I exploded. I just couldn’t believe it. In the last election, he was in the running but he told me he felt led by God to remove himself from the race. “I said, ‘Maybe next time,’ and he said, ‘I’ll be too old.'”

Known as the “evangelical pope,” Francis has invited Palau to lay hands on him in prayer. Palau says, “Whenever we pray together, he says, ‘lay your hands on me and pray for me, that God will keep me as servant.’ He is respectful of all sides of Christianity.”


Pope Francis to visit Benedict next Saturday.

  • In this photo released by the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops, Pope Francis, left, is seen aboard a minibus with other Cardinals at the Vatican, the day after his election, Thursday, March 14, 2013. (AP Photo/CNBB, Antonio Luiz Catelan)

    View PhotoAssociated Press/CNBB, Antonio Luiz Catelan – In this photo released by the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops, Pope Francis, left, is seen aboard a minibus with other Cardinals at the Vatican, the day …more 

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis will visit his predecessor at the papal retreat at Castel Gandolfo next Saturday in a historic encounter that brings together the new pope and the first pope to resign in six centuries, the Vatican said in an announcement that outlines the church rites and political meetings for the first days of the papacy.

Among the talks, the Vatican said Saturday, will be a session with the president of Francis’ homeland Argentina on Monday, the eve of his formal installation as pontiff. The pope has sharply criticizedChristina Fernandez her support for liberal measures such as gay marriage and free contraceptives.

But the most closely watched appointment will be Francis’ journey next Saturday to the hills south of Rome for lunch with Benedict XVI, who set in motion the stunning papal transition with his decision become the first pope in 600 years to step down. The meeting will be private, but every comment and gesture on the sidelines will be scrutinized for hints of how the unprecedented relationship will take shape between the emeritus pontiff and his successor.

Benedict has been out of the public eye since officially leaving the papacy on Feb. 28 and the Vatican dismissed any suggestion that the former pope helped shaped the discussions inside the secret gathering of cardinals that selected Buenos Aires Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio on Wednesday as the first pontiff from Latin America. Vatican officials said there was no contact between the papal electors and Benedict before the conclave.

Benedict has promised to remain outside church affairs and dedicate himself to prayer and meditation. Pope Francis, however, has not been reluctant to invoke Benedict’s legacy and memory in both an acknowledgment of the unusual dimensions of his papacy and also a message that he is comfortable with the situation and is now fully in charge.

World leaders and senior international envoys, including Vice President Joe Biden, are expected on Monday for the formal installation of Pope Francis. It offers the new pope his first opportunities to flex his diplomatic skills as head of Vatican city-state. But the most potentially sensitive talks could come with Fernandez after years of open tensions over the then-archbishop’s strong opposition to initiatives that led Argentina to become Latin American country to legalize gay marriage. He also opposed — but failed to stop — Fernandez from promoting free contraception and artificial insemination.

On Saturday, thousands of people gathered for Francis’ meeting with journalists, media workers and their guests.

Francis charmed the crowd with his informal manner, tossing off jokes and giving glimpses inside the conclave that made him pope.


By NICOLE WINFIELD | Associated Press

Argentina’s Congress Skipped Pope Francis’s First Address to Honor Hugo Chavez.


The Argentine Chamber of Deputies got into a little scuffle on Wednesday afternoon after Jorge Mario Bergoglio was named Pope Francis. Weird, right? You’d think they’d be celebrating.

But alas, as the new pope prepared to deliver his first ever address, the lower house of Argentina‘s National Congress was holding a ceremony to honor Hugo ChávezForeign Policy‘s Uri Friedmanflagged the local coverage of the new pope, specifically a piece in Clarín reporting that the right-leaning opposition wanted to take a brief recess to watch Francis’s first address. The opposition then called the left-leaning majority Front for Victory “resentful [and] resentful” when it refused to halt the preplanned ceremony. There was a heated argument. Eventually, the majority won, and the ceremony continued.

Depending on your leanings, it’s tough to pick sides here. On one hand, Pope Francis is a pretty big deal not only for Argentina but for all of Latin America and arguably the world. He’s the first non-European pope and, as such, an unexpected choice for the College of Cardinals. On the other hand — and it almost goes without saying — Hugo Chávez’s death was also a huge deal for Latin America. And whether you like the guy or not, it’s easy to understand how some people might be angry about interrupting his memorial ceremony. It’s a little disrespectful, even if it is the pope’s fault. Furthermore, that speech was obviously recorded.

In a way, this could be a sign of things to come. As The Washington Post‘s Max Fischer explains, Argentina is not necessarily unified behind the Catholic church. “The Catholic church, and to a lesser extent Bergoglio himself, were perceived in Argentina as sympathetic to the country’s right-wing military junta, which ruled in the 1970s,” said Fischer of the scuffle.

So let’s get this straight. Argentina’s Congress got in a fight over a guy that once sympathized with an authoritarian regime in order to hold a ceremony for another guy who was in charge of an authoritarian regime? Latin America is weird, sometimes.



First Latin American pope could counter declining Catholicism.

Newly elected Pope Francis appears on the balcony of St Peter’s Basilica on March 13. (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty I …

Pope Francis, born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, is the first non-European pontiff since the eighth century, bringing a distinctly New World flavor to the Vatican that Catholics hope can reverse the decades-long trend of Latin Americans leaving the church.

Pope Francis, formerly Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, acknowledged how unusual his non-European origins are as he greeted thousands of faithful outside St. Peter’s Basilica on Wednesday night. “As you know, the duty of the conclave was to appoint a bishop of Rome. It seems to me that my brother cardinals have chosen one who is from far away, but here I am,” he said shortly after his election.

Pope Francis shares his faraway home of Latin America with about 40 percent of the world’s Catholics, a plurality of the world’s faithful that has nonetheless eroded significantly in the past 50 years as droves of Catholics converted to evangelical Protestantism.

Roberto Blancarte, a professor at the Center of Sociological Studies at El Colegio de México, found that about 1,000 Catholics left the church every day between 2000 and 2010, adding up to a loss of 4 million congregants. Overall, Blancarte estimates that about 90 percent of Latin Americans were Catholic in 1970, compared with about 70 percent today, though the percentage varies widely by country. In the United States, the percentage of Hispanic Catholics has also been declining, but more because they are becoming more secular than converting to competing religions.

Having a Latin American pope, whose native language is Spanish, might lure back some of those Catholics to the fold.

“It could be part of an overarching process of helping to revitalize the Latin American church,” said R. Andrew Chesnut, the Bishop Walter Sullivan Chair in Catholic Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. “A lot of Latin American Catholics will feel very proud and elated that the new pope is one of theirs and his native language is their native language.”

The precipitous decline in Catholic affiliation might have nudged the cardinals into selecting a non-European pope for the first time in centuries. Seventeen percent of the cardinals in the conclave were from Latin America.

“With this bleeding of members over the last half-century it made so much sense strategically to choose a Latin American. Europe is lost, the church is in a real crisis there, but Latin America still has a chance to be salvaged,” Chesnut said.

Robert P. George, a Christian conservative thinker and law professor at Princeton, said the move will be interpreted by people in Latin America as a recognition “that there is a strong Catholic culture and many faithful Catholics in Latin America.”

But not all experts on Catholicism agreed. Blancarte pointed out that Pope John Paul II was unable to battle the larger trend away from Catholicism despite his unprecedented attention to the region during his 26-year papacy.

“John Paul II visited almost every country in Latin America. … He was as much Latin American as anyone can be,” Blancarte said. “The fact that [Francis] is Latin American is a marginal fact.”

Miguel Zamora, an Argentine immigrant who lives in New York and works for a pharmaceutical company, said he was elated to learn the new pope is from Argentina. “I think this is going to be a big boost for Argentina,” Zamora said.

But he added that the pride he feels for the pope’s nationality will not necessarily coax him back to attending mass on Sundays. “I still have hopes that the church is going to change,” he said.

By  | The Lookout

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