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Pope issues blistering criticism of Brazilian church for losses to evangelicals
“Let us courageously look to pastoral needs, beginning with the outskirts, with those who are farthest away, with those who do not usually go to church,” he said Saturday. “They too are invited to the table of the Lord.”
He carried that message to a meeting with Brazil’s political, economic and intellectual elite, urging them to look out for the poorest and use their leadership positions to work for the common good. He also called for greater dialogue between generations, religions and peoples.
“Between selfish indifference and violent protest there is always another possible option: that of dialogue,” he said in a reference to the protests that have wracked Brazil in recent weeks. “A country grows when constructive dialogue occurs between its many rich cultural components: popular culture, university culture, youth culture, artistic and technological culture, economic culture, family culture and media culture.” He added that religion plays a critical and unifying role.
He delivered those remarks at Rio’s grand municipal theater, where he was welcomed with a standing ovation and shouts of “Francisco” and “Viva o Papa!” (Long live the pope).
On a few occasions, he looked up at the gilded theater boxes almost in awe from the stage and seemed charmed when a few dozen young students of the theater’s ballet school, all with their hair in buns, sat down around him. At the end of the event, the little ballerinas all swarmed around Francis for a hug and a kiss.
Also receiving papal embraces were a handful of Brazilian Indians, dressed in their traditional, bare-bellied garb who lined up to kiss his ring. One man gave Francis a feathered headdress, which he gamely wore for a few moments.
Claudina Rosa, a 32-year-old secretary from Minas Gerais state who waited outside the theater in a downpour to catch a glimpse of the pope, applauded his call for dialogue.
“We don’t have any way of accessing our leaders. They don’t listen to us at all, so it’s excellent that the pope call for dialogue in this way,” she said.
Later Saturday, Francis was presiding over an evening vigil service on Copacabana beach that is expected to draw more than 1 million young people.
He returns to Rome on Sunday after the final Mass.
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