By Frei Betto
English translation by Rebel Girl
Dear Pope Francis, the Brazilian people are waiting for you with open arms and hearts. Thanks to your election, the papacy has now acquired a happier face.
You have instilled in us all a renewed hope in the Catholic Church by taking actions that are closer to the Gospel of Jesus than the monarchical lines prevalent in the Vatican. Once elected, you returned personally to the three-star hotel where you had stayed in Rome to pay the bill; at the Vatican, you decided to live at Casa Santa Marta, the guest house, and not in the papal residence, almost a princely palace; you eat lunch in the staff cafeteria and don't have a reserved seat, changing tables and dinner companions every day; you had the priest director of the Vatican bank, who was involved in swindling 20 million euros, arrested.
In Lampedusa, where they bring the African immigrants who have survived the ocean crossing (in which 20,000 people have died) and are seeking a better life in Europe, you criticized the "globalization of indifference" and those who, anonymously, move the economic and financial indexes, condemning multitudes of people to unemployment and poverty.
A different Brazil awaits you. It's as if God, to brighten World Youth Day further, had mobilized our young people who, in recent weeks, have flooded our streets, expressing dreams and demands. Above all, hope for a better Brazil and a better world.
It's a fact that our ecclesiastical and civil authorities were careful not to leave you more time with young people. According to the official program, you will have more encounters with those who now govern us and lead the Church in Brazil than with those who are the focal point and protagonists of this day.
While our people are experiencing a moment of direct democracy in the streets, the organizers of your visit have taken care to imprison you in palaces and lecture halls. Just as your speeches are now being modified in Rome to be more attuned to the cry of Brazilian youth, hopefully you will change the program that they have prepared for you here and devote more time to dialogue with the young people.
It makes no sense, for example, for you to bless, in the city of Rio, the flags of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. They're sporting events beyond all religious, cultural, ethnic, national, and political diversity.
Why is the head of the Catholic Church making this symbolic gesture of blessing the flags of two events that have nothing religious about them, although they do contain gospel values because they cancel out the differences between nations and promote peace? Perhaps it will be the only time athletes from North Korea and the U.S. will fraternize.
How would we feel if they were blessed by a rabbi or a Muslim religious authority?
In the statements you'll make in Brazil, you'll make it clear why you've come. When you were elected and proclaimed pope, you told the crowd gathered in St. Peter's Square in Rome, that the cardinals went to "the ends of the earth" to look for a Pope.
Hopefully your pontificate also represents the beginning of a new era for the Catholic Church, free of moralism, clericalism, distrust in the face of post-modernity. A Church that puts an end to mandatory celibacy, the ban on condom use, the exclusion of women from access to the priesthood.
A Church that reincorporates married priests into the priestly ministry, that dialogues without arrogance with the different religious traditions, that is open to scientific advances, that assumes its prophetic role of denouncing, in Jesus' name, the causes of poverty, social inequality, migration, and natural devastation.
Young people expect a Church that is a joyful community, stripped, without luxuries and glitter, able to reflect the face of the Young Man of Nazareth, and where love always finds its dwelling place.
Welcome to Brazil, Pope Chico! If the Argentines justly boast of having a fellow countryman as the successor of Peter, know that here we are all pleased to know that God is Brazilian!