VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis travels to Brazil later this month on his first foreign visit as pontiff, to a country riven by social tensions and with the highest number of Catholics in the world.
On July 22, he will fly into an emerging economic powerhouse in tumult following sometimes violent protests against corruption, the poor public services and the glaring gulf between rich and poor.
The 76-year-old Argentinian, Latin America’s first pope, has proved popular thanks to his humble manner, personal touch and reformist views.
Doctrinally, however, he remains a conservative and has yet to implement major changes.
A son of Italian immigrants, Francis knows the problems and injustices of the region well. He is not concerned about possible demonstrations, his friend the archbishop emeritus of Sao Paulo, Claudio Hummes said recently.
The visit, which wraps up on July 28, is centered on World Youth Day—a Catholic festival held every two years in a different city.
The pope will visit a favela shantytown, a hospital and the Marian sanctuary of Aparecida on the road between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.