In 2013, this is what it looks like when the Pope is about to pass by in front of crowds. Smartphones and cameras everywhere.
It’s Popeweek here in Rio de Janeiro, and that has absolutely dominated news coverage. Since my main employer, the LA Times, is a newspaper in a Catholic-heavy city in a very religious country, we’ve done a lot. Brazil watchers should also check out Folha’s excellent English-language coverage, but what follows below is a summary of what’s happened so far as I report for LAT.
Brazil is “the world’s largest Catholic country,” but it is less Catholic than ever, and it’s worth asking how Catholic people here really are compared to the rest of Latin America, and how often self-professed believers agree with the Church on moral doctrine.
In Brazil, it’s the Evangelicals that have strong opinions on religion, and whom the secular-liberal protesters view as a threat. Just as often as not, being “Catholic” here is a default option for anyone who hasn’t thought much about religion. Only 16% of Brazilians report going to Catholic Mass once a week – and the word “report” in there implies it could very well be less.
The faithful are hopeful Francis will inspire the flock to come back to the Roman Church. He is certainly popular, largely because of a perception he goes out of his way to live simply and get closer to ‘the people.’
He was received like a pop star on Monday, with crowds laughing, and cheering, and singing, and snapping, and snapping, and snapping (see photo above). I have never seen so many photos taken at the same time in my life. One amazing scene unfolded as a group of nuns mobbed his moving car with open windows…to take pictures of him on their camera phones. But I didn’t see anyone crying or praying.