It was practically ordained in advance that Pope Francis be received with rapture in Brazil – the country of the world with the most Catholics – the first South American pontiff on his first foreign trip – his focus: the young.
He condemns the injustice of inequality between rich and poor.
Right from on the plane over – with 70 journalists along on ‘Vatican One’ – he got to the point; he didn’t mention a religious word.
“We’re running the risk of raising a generation who don’t have work. With work comes people’s dignity – when they earn their living. Young people now are in a crisis.”
Francis preaches a social gospel in harmony with Brazil’s top leaders. They’ve had measurable success in helping some 28 million people rise above the poverty line since 2003.
But even so, President Dilma Roussef before the holy father renounced pride in place of political humility: “We know we can face new challenges and continue improving our reality. That was the feeling that recently made hundreds of thousands of young people take to the streets.”
Young people also demonstrated forcefully on Monday, protesting against what’s being spent on the papal visit: more than 40 million euros – from the taxpayers.
One activist said: “It’s nice he’s come, but we want the international press here to cover him to pay attention to all the causes we’ve been marching for.”
Last month, Brazilians in a hundred cities demanded corruption be cleaned up and public services improved. Brazil has displaced Britain as the world’s sixth-largest economy. You’d think that was welcome. Yet simply the rise in something as essential as a public transport ticket – for people struggling to earn a subsistence wage – triggered the biggest demonstrations the country has seen in two decades.
Twenty billion euros will be spent to host the next football World Cup and Olympic games here.