John Paul II and Brazil

In 1980 Pope John Paul II visited Brazil. It does serve as a good example of the Church and its efforts at democratization. Weigel describes the trip in Witness to Hope, a mere two pages (pp. 379-380) in that massive tome. One can find John Paul II Addresses and Homilies given in Brazil (USCC, 1980).

Weigel says “it was a pilgrimage fraught with difficulties. The Brazilian government, many of whose senior officials were Catholics, and the Church leadership were in conflict over the slow pace of democratization, the continued jailing of political prisoners, and the countries vast disparities in wealth.”

John Paul learned Portuguese prior to his trip and he “managed to create a measure of unity in a divided Church and a divided society. Twenty million people saw the Pope in person and tens of millions more saw him on television. Balance, with evangelical edge was the watchword of the entire pilgrimage.”

On the first day he met with the president, a group of elite, and then a group of prisoners. He said Mass for half a million young people. Later he met with 150,000 workers in Sao Paulo. The people were chanting “John of God.”

In Rio de Janeiro and Sao Salvador de Bahia, he visited the poor; in the Amazon he met with natives; in Reclife he embraced Helder Camara and spoke with the Bishops in a four hour closed door meeting. According to Weigel it was an extensive reflection on:

the Church’s distinctive character as a religious community, on Catholic social doctrine, and on the imperative of strengthening Catholic unity. An engaged Church, but not a partisan Church; a Church with a special care for the poor, but not espousing class struggle; a Church of and for the people, but a Church with a doctrine and an ordained leadership; a clergy passionate about social justice, but not clerical politicians or revolutionaries; a Church of Vatican II in its fullness.

I think Weigel hits it just right when he said “Balance, with evangelical edge was the watchword of the entire pilgrimage.” One could say that balance was the watchword of his entire papacy. In the next post I will delve into to some of the speeches and homilies to find examples of the balance, with an evangelical edge.”.

2 Comments
  1. And it was this very "balance" that the self styled traditionalist movement found unacceptable. Why do Catholics expend so much energy fighting each other?

  2. Dear Friend of JP2
    It was the balance that both sides criticized — Weigel mentions in his book that his address to the Bishops was criticized as "conservative." (p. 380) Go figure! and the infighting is counter productive. It was John Paul II's mission to forge the unity and purpose in the post-conciliar Church. I will share a few passages from the speeches.

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