Latin Americans concerned about Pope's European agenda

While Catholic leaders in Latin America welcomed the election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI, some theologians have expressed concern about the possible impact of the man who played a role in the investigation of several of their colleagues in the 1980s.

"He is a man with a very good grasp of the reality of today's world, of the relativism and moral subjectivity that dominate the world," said Bishop Andres Stanovnik of Reconquista, Argentina, secretary-general of the Latin American bishops' council, known as CELAM.

Bishop Luis Stockler of Quilmes, Argentina, who studied with the cardinal in Germany in the 1950s, characterised the new pope as "a man of God, intelligent and very humble," according to the Buenos Aires daily La Nacion.

Some theologians, however, worried that an overly intellectual approach could open a gulf between church leadership and Latin America's 330 million Catholics. Several also expressed concern that the cardinal's homily at the Mass before the conclave reflected more concern with European secularism than with poverty and other problems afflicting much of the world's population.

The gap between the rich and poor is an increasing concern in Latin America, the region of the world with the largest percentage of Catholics. In Brazil and Colombia, the richest 20% of the population receives about 60% of the income, while the poorest 10% accounts for less than 1%. One-third of Peruvians and Guatemalans live on $2 a day; that figure increases to 40% in Ecuador and 58% in El Salvador.

"The hot-button issues for Latin America are not stem-cell research or abortion, but things like social justice and corruption," said Dominican Fr Edward Cleary, who has worked in Bolivia and now directs the Latin American Studies Program at Providence College in Rhode Island. The question, he said, is: "Will this pope learn something from the church in Latin America?"

Although Europe's 58 cardinal-electors constituted the largest bloc in the conclave, Latin America was second with 21. Some observers said they hoped the new pope would not pay more attention to revitalising the European church than to addressing problems in Latin America, where about one-third of the world's Catholics live.

"The church has become a Third World church, but (the new pope's) agenda is a European agenda," Brazilian theologian Jose Oscar Beozzo told CNS in a telephone interview. The choice of the name of a saint who evangelised Europe, Beozzo said, implies "that the central task of the church and his pontificate is the re-evangelization of Europe."

Latin American church leaders concerned over pope's potential impact (Catholic News Service 20/4/05)


Pope May Color Debate in U.S. Over 'Life' Issues (Pew Forum/New York Times 21/4/05)
Europe will be high on the new Pope's agenda (Ekklesia 20/4/05)

22 Apr 2005