Catholic World News News Feature
Pope set for voyage to Brazil May 08, 2007
Pope Benedict XVI will leave Rome tomorrow-- Wednesday, May 9-- for a trip to Brazil, where he will preside at the opening of the 5th general assembly of the Latin American bishops' conference, CELAM.
The trip will be the 6th visit outside Italy for Pope Benedict, and his first visit to the Western hemisphere since he was elected Roman Pontiff in April 2005. It will be the first papal visit to the Americas since July 2002, when Pope John Paul II traveled to Toronto for World Youth Day and made subsequent visits to Mexico and Guatemala.
Benedict XVI will be the 3rd Pontiff to visit Latin America. Pope Paul VI made the trip to Medellin, Colombia, for the 2nd general meeting of CELAM in December 1977. Pope John Paul II made 18 trips to Latin America-- averaging one every 15 months during his pontificate-- with 4 visits to Brazil.
The Pope will be visiting the world's most populous Catholic nation. Official statistics for the Church in Brazil show over 155 million faithful, out of an overall population of 184 million. (Because many Brazilians do not attend church services regularly, estimates of religious affiliation vary widely. Independent surveys put the Catholic population closer to 140 million.) There are 427 Brazilian bishops, accounting for roughly one-third of the bishops in all of Latin America.
The first major highlight of the papal trip will come on Friday, May 11, with the canonization of Blessed Frei Galvao at an outdoor Mass to be celebrated at an old airfield outside Sao Paulo. On Sunday, May 13, the Pope will again preside at Mass, at the beloved Marian shrine of Aparecida, to open the CELAM conference. That Mass will be celebrated on the piazza outside the basilica at Aparecida, to accommodate a congregation that is expected to exceed 500,000.
Brazilian officials have planned tight security measures for the papal visit, which will last from May 9 to 14. During that time about 7,000 police officers will be assigned to duties connected with the papal visit, with an additional 3,000 soldiers in reserve roles.