Pope Benedict Reaches Out to Brazilian Flock

"You can tell this pope is more intellectual. Like kings, everyone has a different personality," said Hose Antonio Rios, a 61-year-old from Caracas. He was a bit disappointed the pope didn't go to see the poor people in the favellas during his visit. "I think it would have been good … but he did speak strongly to the bishops," he said and seemed satisfied with that.

Before leaving to fly back to his home in the Vatican, the pope delivered a strong speech in Portuguese and Spanish to nearly 300 bishops gathered here and summed up the challenges that face the church in this region. Four U.S. bishops are also attending the meeting. He outlined his ideas on how the church should regain its footing in Latin America, where it is losing parishioners at a rapid pace to Protestant and evangelical faiths. Addressing a number of social problems, he equated and condemned both Marxism and unchecked capitalism and reaffirmed the church's ban against contraception and abortion.

"In Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as in other regions, there has been notable progress towards democracy, although there are grounds for concern in the face of authoritarian forms of government and regimes wedded to certain ideologies that we thought had been superseded, and which do not correspond to the Christian vision of man and society as taught by the Social Doctrine of the Church. On the other side of the coin, the liberal economy of some Latin American countries must take account of equity, because of the ever increasing sectors of society that find themselves oppressed by immense poverty or even despoiled of their own natural resources," Pope Benedict told the bishops.

He added, "Are only material goods, social, economic and political problems "reality"? This was precisely the great error of the dominant tendencies of the last century, a most destructive error, as we can see from the results of both Marxist and capitalist systems. They falsify the notion of reality by detaching it from the foundational and decisive reality which is God. Anyone who excludes God from his horizons falsifies the notion of "reality" and, in consequence, can only end up in blind alleys or with recipes for destruction."

Thirty-nine percent of the Catholics in the United States are Hispanics, mostly from Latin America. The strategy the bishops decide to follow for the future of the Roman Catholic Church in this region is expected to also have an impact on the American Catholicism.

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