Pope Francis to visit shrine where he called for change

Pope Francis' visit
Wednesday to Aparecida, a small Brazilian city
that is home to the country's most important
Roman Catholic shrine, is meant as a message
to the world.
It was there in 2007 that Francis, then
Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos
Aires, authored a document with fellow
bishops calling for Catholics in Latin America
to become missionaries and combat societal
ills such as inequality, corruption and
"The language that the bishops used in
Aparecida is the language that the church is
using now," says Robert Coogan, an American
priest in Mexico and an observer of the Latin
American church.
"Instead of thinking, 'The priests have to do
something,' it's for each person to think: 'I
have to do something. I have to make a
difference.' "
The trip to Aparecida marks Francis' first event
during World Youth Day, a gathering of more
than 300,000 Catholics from the world over.
He arrived Monday to throngs of well-wishers
who excitedly closed in on his convoy in Rio's
streets and prevented the pontiff from
reaching his reception ceremony on time.
Many pilgrims and Catholics in Brazil – the
world's most populous Catholic country – also
have expressed hopes that Francis' visit and
participation in World Youth Day can bring
about renewal in a region with a receding
"We see some of the same energy (with young
Catholics) that we haven't seen since Pope
John Paul II, says Andrew Chesnut, religion
studies professor at Virginia Commonwealth
University. "But whether it translates into
numbers or real growth, especially in Latin
America, where the church is most concerned,
remains to be seen."
The gathering has proved popular since John
Paul started it in 1987 as an encounter
between young people and the pontiff –
although attendance is slightly lower here in
comparison to past years. Others in the church
say the event serves a practical purpose:
keeping youngsters committed to the Catholic
faith and involved in church life.
"Any organization that doesn't look after its
young people doesn't have much of a future.
The Catholic Church is no different," Mexican
Bishop Raúl Vera says.
Francis has spoken of his concern for young
people, especially those growing up poor and
without opportunities in tough economic
"Young people are an important part of society
and should not been seen as apart from it,"
papal spokesman Federico Lombardi told
reporters in Rio.
The week's World Youth Day agenda includes
morning catechism classes, religious
celebrations and a final celebration of Mass
with the pope that is expected to attract more
than 1 million attendees.
Francis expanded his own agenda to include
themes important to his papacy such as
simplicity and solidarity with the poor. He's
scheduled to inaugurate an addiction
treatment center in a Catholic Hospital on
Wednesday and visit with residents of a shanty
the next day.
Pope Francis spent Tuesday resting.
His arrival animated tens of thousands of
young Catholics cramming the Rio city center,
as they waved flags, chanted slogans and
swarmed the four-door Fiat he was riding in.
"He's great, his style is simple and easy
going," says David Bispo, who operates a
popular bar in a shantytown known here as a
favela. "I think that the pope will help bring
young people back to the Catholic Church."

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