I hope you have had the opportunity to tune into Salt + Light Television over the last few days to watch coverage of the events. You can still catch the Holy Father at the Shrine of Aparecida as he opens the Fifth General Conference of the Latin and Caribbean Bishops on Sunday. Click here for our broadcast schedule.
Thus far we have seen a very active Pope. Today he visited the Fazenda da Esperanca, or Farm of Hope, a centre of rehabilitation for drug addicts. The Holy Father challenged young people on Thursday at the Stadium of Pacaembu to be "apostles of youth" and reminded them that Christ called them "to be saints." On Friday, upwards of one million people gathered for the canonization of the first Brazilian, 18th century Franciscan priest Blessed Frei Galvou. And all throughout these great events, he's greeted thouands in Sao Paulo and Aparecida.
The trip thus far has not been without controversy -- of course the abortion and excommunication exchange on day one was a hot topic for the media. And even before departing, the big story was the rapid growth of the Pentecostal Church in the region and the plan the Church would take to counter people leaving Her. The Holy Father has expressed genuine concern about this and I think it's a real challenge for all
Church leaders in every
nation to present the Gospel in a way that people view as relevant (our faith will always be relevant and important, it's whether or not we
perceive it as relevant!). The impact the Holy Father's visit has on Latin America likely won't be known for some time. But we can pray that this visit will strengthen the faithful, and encourage others to get to know their faith better.
Perhaps the most interesting and engaging stories from Papal visits like this one are the ones you won't find in the headlines or discussed in the pages of international newspapers. These are the stories of how a phrase may have consoled a troubled soul, of how a glance from the Holy Father may have moved someone's heart, of how seeing your neighbours united in faith can set your own heart on fire. These can be powerful and life changing moments!
So let's continue to pray for the success of Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Brazil; that it may bear much fruit and have a positive, long lasting effect. And let's pray for the nations of Latin America, the people, the faithful, the leaders -- religious and secular -- and our own nations, that we may all unite together and proclaim “O God, let all the nations praise you!”