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Pope's Visit To Brazil Seen As 'Triumphant Homecoming'

A Brazilian flag flies on Saturday near the podium which will receive Pope Francis on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro.
Mario Tama
Getty Images
A Brazilian flag flies on Saturday near the podium which will receive Pope Francis on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro.

When Pope Francis arrives in Brazil on Monday, he'll begin a trip of firsts.

He's the first Latin American pope, and it will be his first trip abroad as pontiff. And he'll be visiting a country with more Catholics than any other.

Francis, who is gaining a reputation for his simple ways, is expected, The Miami Herald writes, to:

" ... walk the streets of a shantytown, visit young prisoners and greet hundreds of thousands of pilgrims this week during World Youth Day celebrations in Brazil ..."

Rocco Palmo, who writes the Catholic blog Whispers in the Loggia tells NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday that Francis, whose papacy has energized Latin American Catholics, can expect an especially warm reception: "It's going to be a triumphant homecoming," he says.

The pope is expected to eschew the glass-encased "pope mobile" in favor of an open-topped car.

"It sends a message of not being afraid, but it also sends a message of wanting to be close to people," Palmo tells Weekend Edition host Rachel Martin.

The papal visit, which begins in Rio de Janeiro, comes barely a month after massive street protests in Brazil were staged to protest corruption, government largess, poor education and substandard medical care in the country.

The New York Times quotes Fernando Altemeyer Jr., a theologian and philosopher at the Pontifical Catholic University in São Paulo, as saying it's a "crucial moment for the church, the nation, society and the people."

"Brazil has changed and things are bubbling, but there is no clarity. Everything is new and unknown, in the country and the church, even for the bishops," Altemeyer says.

Blogger Palmo says Francis is deeply aware of the situation in Brazil.

"But at the same time, I don't think he's going to wade into [the politics] outside of just general principles," he says. "The Church speaks about the principles, the morals, but the practicals are for the politicians to decide."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.
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