Pope: “Evangelize Latin America!”
Latin America, incorporating Mexico, the Central American isthmus and the continent of South America, constitutes the most catholicized land mass in the world. The region’s largest country, Brazil, has the largest single national population of Roman Catholics in the world.
Pope Benedict xvi deliberately chose the fifth conference of Latin American and Caribbean Bishops (celam), for his first excursion outside of the continent of Europe. His predecessor, John Paul ii, similarly chose the third celam conference, which took place in Latin America’s second most populous country, Mexico, for his first intercontinental visit in 1979.
These visits to Latin America by these two very close collaborators in the revival of the Roman Catholic Church to a position of global power and prestige, John Paul ii and Benedict xvi, have profound meaning. They are part of Rome’s strategy to regain the global geopolitical influence it once enjoyed, from the time of Emperor Justinian’s restoration of the Roman Empire in a.d. 554 to the defeat of Napoleon in 1814.
John Paul ii’s reign, from 1978 to 2005, witnessed the restoration of the Roman Catholic Church as the central ideological focus of the greater part of the combined populace of eastern and southern Europe. John Paul’s part in the demise of the Soviet Union, and the resultant harvesting of these nations into the European Union, is a matter of recent historical record.
This was, essentially, Act One in the great papal play for a revival of global religious dominance.
Apart from Europe, it is Latin America that holds out the greatest promise for Rome’s return to its glory days of the papacy in tandem with the political leadership of the European Union, in terms of the ease of extending Rome’s and the EU’s intercontinental reach and influence.
During John Paul ii’s visit to the 1979 celam conference, he threw down the gauntlet to the liberation theology movement that had permeated the church in Latin America, and rippled around the world from there, since Vatican ii. His enforcer at the time, Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict xvi, followed through, progressively eliminating the Latin American leaders of the liberation theology movement.
Both John Paul ii and his loyal enforcer worked for the duration of his papacy to prepare the way for a revival of traditionalist thought and liturgy within Catholicism. Most notable in this effort was the appointment of a record number of cardinals during John Paul ii’s reign gleaned from the ranks of the most conservative within the priesthood. Thus the way was paved for the second act in this determined strategy to return Rome to prime global position.
It’s taken barely two years for Pope Benedict xvi to reveal his true ultra-conservative colors. The increasingly strident note in his public statements (especially since his infamous Regensburg speech last September), his encyclicals, and his other quite prolific writings, is now most apparent. Thus Benedict had already set the scene for the curtain to be lifted on Act Two in this great papal play, at the presidential palace in the Brazilian state capital of Sao Paulo City.
Just two weeks prior to the pope’s visit to Brazilian President Lula da Silva, Mexican legislators indicated their approval of legal changes that would permit abortion to be carried out in Mexico City. This is such a hot issue with the pope that he told reporters on board his flight to Brazil that the politicians who had endorsed this legislation risked excommunication from the church.
So it was that as the pope was still in the air traveling toward Brazil, Lula da Silva made a very timely, and very political, public statement. He declared that he would neither support any change that would liberalize current Brazilian law against abortion, nor any referendum taking the matter to the public.
To say that this statement was calculated to place da Silva in the pope’s good graces on the eve of his visit to this Catholic country would be quite an understatement!
The president’s stance, in support of the pope’s position against abortion, set the stage for more shocks to follow, via the mouth of the pope himself. Brazil, though nominally Catholic, has been a hotbed of mixed views on religious issues for some time, and has become heavily penetrated by Protestant evangelical movements. As Benedict saw it, Brazilians and, through the gathering of bishops in Sao Paulo, all of Latin America, were about to hear a penetrating call to order by the leader of their continental religion.
Benedict’s first major public appearance in Sao Pualo was at an evening with tens of thousands of Brazilian youth gathered at a soccer stadium in Sao Paulo City. The youthful crowd was pumped up for Benedict’s appearance by religious rock music backed by incessant chants of “Bento, Bento, Bento!” This was interspersed with a mantra intoned by a young priest leading the crowd in a cry, which fitted the tone set by da Silva’s earlier public declaration, “Yes to life. No to abortion!” As the popemobile entered the arena, Benedict must have been well pleased to hear Brazilian youth en masse supporting his drive for the right to life!
Our Latin American correspondent, Juan Veloz, in Sao Paulo to report on the pope’s visit, felt the pulse of this youthful gathering with its rapturous welcome to the nation’s chief religious patriarch. He noted that the pope, after encouraging Brazilian youth to take on a lifestyle that reflected traditional Catholic teaching against both abortion and pre-marital sex, warmed to the main message to which he would return again and again during his stay in Brazil. “I send you out, therefore, on the great mission of evangelizing young men and women who have gone astray in this world like sheep without a shepherd.”
“Aware that this pope’s physical appearance tends to indicate a certain physical frailness,” Mr. Veloz noted, the local media picked up on the theme, “it will be necessary to pay more attention to the message than to the messenger.” With the new pontiff, it is “more about listening to him than looking at him,” according to the media’s message.
As the cardinals, bishops, the priests, laity and masses listen, the key word that will now be embedded in all of the pope’s major addresses to the faithful is simply, evangelize!
That is the theme of Act Two in the great drive by Rome to conquer the globe religiously: Evangelize!
Benedict threw out a powerful challenge to the bishops gathered in the great Cathedral da Sé in Sao Paulo. As Mr. Veloz observed, the pope in his address to the bishops of Latin America “called the assembled to action through the establishment of a more aggressive and active new evangelization reaching to the lowest strata of society, providing material assistance, and heading off the penetration of the nation by many competing Protestant movements or, as he called them, ‘sects.’”
This theme of evangelizing Latin America and the Caribbean was further reinforced by Benedict at the opening of the celam conference on Sunday. The crux of his message to the bishops in this vast catholicized region was summed up by Benedict thus: “[O]ne can detect a certain weakening of Christian life in society overall and of participation in the life of the Catholic Church, due to secularism, hedonism, indifference and proselytism by numerous sects, animist religions and new pseudo-religious phenomena.” He also expressed concern about “a flight toward emotionalism, toward religious individualism” (Catholic World News, May 14). His conclusion to his official address to the gathered bishops of the region was clear, ringing and specific. It gave his formula for stemming this flight toward religious individualism. “The pope demanded that the bishops lead a Roman Catholic spiritual revival via a renewed, vigorous evangelization of Latin America and the Caribbean!” Veloz noted.
That Benedict staunchly considers Roman Catholicism the only true and universal religion was apparent in a declarative statement he made to the assembled bishops during his opening address to celam. As cwn reported it, he said that “The greatest gift the church can offer to Latin America is the Catholic faith.” “Only from the Eucharist will the civilization of love spring forth which will transform Latin America and the Caribbean,” he said. cwn continued, “The pope stressed that evangelization must be the top priority for Catholic leaders in Latin America, and the church’s social action should flow from and serve that primary mission” (op. cit.).
Unlike his continuing, somewhat frustrating, crusade for the catholicization of Europe (in particular Western Europe)—a region of different denominations, different religions, largely secularized, deeply affected by post-Enlightenment rationalist thought and riven by a Babel of languages—Latin America presents the pope with a great singular land mass where the people speak one language—Spanish for the most part and Portuguese in Brazil—and the majority identify with one religion, the religion of Rome.
By specific papal command to the assembled bishops of the region, the pope launched a strategy in Brazil destined to draw powerful support from resource-rich Latin America that will prove of great value in steering the resource-needful continent of Europe to a much closer bond with the southern continent in a revival of that symbiotic relationship as when Rome once cemented the two continents together in its old Holy Roman Empire heyday.
Not only that. Affronted by the European Union’s inability to agree to have the religion of Rome embedded in the EU constitution, the pope simply declared it apostate. By calling on the leaders of his religion in Latin America to initiate a great crusading evangelism on behalf of Rome, we may yet witness the revival of the religion of Rome flow northward, from the masses clamoring for change in the great continent south of the Rio Grande, on up into Europe, in a complete reversal of the history of the old conquistadores!