The Pope has arrived in Brazil for his first visit to Latin America. Benedict XVI has shown himself to be keen to reaffirm traditional family values and stem the exodus of Roman Catholics to other faiths. In the plane before he landed, the Pontiff appeared to back a threat by bishops to ex-communicate politicians who have voted to decriminalize abortion in Mexico.
But later a Vatican spokesman qualified the comment, saying such law-makers should not receive communion. Brazil has the world’s largest Catholic population, but this five day trip is overshadowed by concerns that the Church of Rome is losing its grip in Latin America.
Benedict XVI has said he will raise the issue of defections at a Bishops’ conference in the town of Aparecida, where he is due to give the keynote address. The Pope has a reputation in Latin America as a conservative and is viewed as lacking the charisma of his popular predecessor, John Paul II.
That notwithstanding, more than a million people are expected at an outdoor mass tomorrow to witness the Pontiff canonizing the first Brazilian-born saint.