RIO DE JANEIRO: Pope Francis is due in Brazil on Monday on his first foreign trip as pontiff to attend an international youth festival in the world’s biggest Catholic country.
The 76-year-old Argentine, Latin America’s first pope, will visit a nation still shaken by last month’s social unrest that saw hundreds of thousands rally in support of better public services and an end to endemic corruption.
The official purpose of the pontiff’s week-long trip is to meet with some of the 1.5 million young pilgrims attending World Youth Day. But he is also expected to see prison inmates and tour a hospital that treats drug addicts.
The leader of the world’s one billion Catholics, who has portrayed himself as a champion of the poor, will also seek to energize his flock in Latin America’s dominant power where rival evangelical protestant churches have made spectacular inroads over the past three decades.
A son of Italian immigrants, Francis knows the problems and injustices of the region well. He has called for a “poor Church for the poor” and railed against the “tyranny of money.”
Soon after his arrival, he will likely get a taste of Brazil’s restive mood, with local Anonymous “hacktivists” calling for a protest outside Rio state government headquarters where he is due to meet President Dilma Rousseff.
The organizers said their aim, among other things, was “to protest the $90 million in public spending for the papal visit” and denounce “excessive police violence” during June’s mass rallies. AFP