(USA Today) An estimated three million Catholics crammed onto the iconic Copacabana Beach Saturday night for a vigil with Pope Francis, whose visit to Brazil culminates Sunday with a Mass that is expected to convene an even bigger crowd.
The vigil capped a busy day for Francis, who arrived in Brazil July 22 for World Youth Day, a biannual gathering of young Catholics.
Earlier on Saturday, Francis told an assembly of Catholic bishops in the cathedral of Rio de Janeiro to get out of their cathedrals and spread the gospel and serve those most in need.
It was yet another admonishment from the first Latin American pontiff â€” who has called for a Church focused on the poor â€” for Catholics to adopt a more missionary mind-set. It also blasted bishops from Brazil, where the number of faithful has shrunk to less than 65% of the population in what is still the world’s most Catholic country.
“We cannot keep ourselves shut up in parishes, in our communities, when so many people are waiting for the Gospel,” Francis said.
“Let us courageously look to pastoral needs, beginning on the periphery (of where we live), with those who are farthest away, with those who do not usually go to church. They, too, are invited to the table of the Lord.”
It was message aimed at reviving an institution dating back centuries in Latin America, but one becoming less relevant in the region as people become culturally Catholic or leave the church all together â€” often for Evangelical congregations. Those congregations have often better identified basic needs in poor Brazilian neighbourhoods and addressed issues like domestic violence and alcohol abuse, instead of speaking about more global ideas like social justice, says Andrew Chesnut, religious studies at Virginia Commonwealth University and the author of a book on Brazil’s Evangelicals
Papal spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the speech to the bishops was the longest of his pontificate and outlines his vision for them, Catholic News Service reported. [More]