Thursday, May 10, 2007

First Day of the Trip: with the "First Protagonists of the Millennium"

To cap off the first full day of his trip to Brazil, the Pope presided at a youth rally in a São Paulo soccer stadium...
In a long and energetic speech addressed from the dove-shaped dome on a sunny afternoon, the Pontiff commented on the Gospel passage of the rich young man (Mt 19:16-22) and said, "While flying over the land of Brazil yesterday evening, I was already anticipating our encounter here in the Stadium of Pacaembu, anxious to extend to all of you a warm Brazilian embrace and to share with you the sentiments which I carry in the depths of my heart, and which are very appropriately indicated to us in today’s Gospel."

Recalling his predecessor, who visited Brazil in three occasions, Benedict said: "In 1991, during his visit to Mato Grosso, the Servant of God Pope John Paul II, of venerable memory, said that 'youth are the first protagonists of the third millennium … they are the ones who will be charged with the destiny of this new phase in human history.' Today, I feel moved to make the same observation regarding all of you."

Speaking about the character of Mathew's Gospel, the Pope said it “speaks of a young man who ran to see Jesus. His impatience merits special attention. In this young man I see all of you young people of Brazil and Latin America. You have ‘run’ here from various regions of this Continent for this meeting of ours. You want to listen to the words of Jesus himself—spoken through the voice of the Pope."

"You have a crucial question to put to him. It is the same question posed by the young man who ran to see Jesus: What good deed must I do, to have eternal life? I would like to take a deeper look at this question with you. It has to do with life. A life which—in all of you—is exuberant and beautiful. What are you to do with it? How can you live it to the full?" the Pontiff asked.

"The young man’s question,” the Pope explained, “raises the issue of life’s meaning. It can therefore be formulated in this way: what must I do so that my life has meaning? How must I live so as to reap the full fruits of life? Or again: what must I do so that my life is not wasted? Jesus alone can give us the answer, because he alone can guarantee us eternal life. He alone, therefore, can show us the meaning of this present life and give it fullness."

"To understand what is good,” he continued, “we need help, which the Church offers us on many occasions, especially through catechesis."

Pope Benedict continued to explain the parallel between the young man of the Gospel, who "kept the commandments," and asked: “And you, young people of Brazil and Latin America, have you already discovered what is good? Do you follow the Lord’s commandments? Have you discovered that this is the one true road to happiness?"

And he warned: "These years of your life are the years which will prepare you for your future. Your ‘tomorrow’ depends much on how you are living the ‘today’ of your youth. Stretching out in front of you, my dear young friends, is a life that all of us hope will be long; yet it is only one life, it is unique: do not let it pass it vain; do not squander it. Live it with enthusiasm and with joy, but most of all, with a sense of responsibility."
The Pope met with Brazilian President Lula da Silva this morning, and tomorrow comes the canonization of the country's first native-born saint, the 18th century Franciscan known as Frei Galvao.

While Benedict's in-flight comments yesterday on the reception of the Eucharist by pro-choice politicians (and the series of clarifications subsequently issued by the Holy See Press Office) dominated today's headlines around the globe, another side-story that's received a lot of ink amid the Latin American church's challenge of the Pentecostal-influenced "sects" is the cleric one report dubbed Brazil's "pop-idol priest": Fr Marcelo Rossi, a onetime aerobics instructor whose charismatic Sunday evening Masses draw crowds of over 10,000 in the flesh, and even more through national television broadcasts.

Rossi's high profile has made him something of a flashpoint figure in the Brazilian church; while he's building a new indoor/outdoor church for his liturgies that's said to have a capacity of 100,000, newly-installed São Paulo Archbishop Odilio Pedro Scherer said in late April that "the Mass is not to be transformed into a show," a statement the NYTimes called a "clear reference" to the TV priest, whose album -- with cuts like the "Jesus Twist" -- was said to be Brazil's top-selling release of 2006.

For more up-to-the-minute Bento in Brazil coverage, keep an eye on American Papist.

AP/Silvia Izquierdo