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Brazilian bishops back peaceful protests as countdown to World Youth Day in Rio begins

By on Monday, 24 June 2013

A protester in Brazil holds a poster reading: 'We are many, we don't forget, we don't forgive, we wait' (AP)

A protester in Brazil holds a poster reading: 'We are many, we don't forget, we don't forgive, we wait' (AP)

The Brazilian bishops’ conference has given its backing to the massive demonstrations sweeping the country, but declined to say how they might affect World Youth Day activities and the visit of Pope Francis in July.

The support was expressed in a document distributed to journalists in Brasilia last week by Archbishop Raymundo Damasceno Assis of Aparecida, the bishops’ conference president.

The document said the conference “declares its solidarity and support to these demonstrations, as long as they are peaceful, and which have taken to the streets persons of all ages, especially the youth”.

Missing from the document was any mention of World Youth Day, which will take place in Rio de Janeiro on July 23-28. But Archbishop Assis told reporters it was the government’s responsibility to guarantee the safety of the pilgrims. He conceded that the events of the recent few days may discourage foreign pilgrims from attending World Youth Day.

Earlier Archbishop Orani Joao Tempesta of Rio de Janeiro said in a separate statement that the protests would not affect World Youth Day or the planned visit of Pope Francis. The demonstrations are, he said, “in some ways similar to the spirit of WYD – the desire to work together for a new world, for a new life, a new society”.

The archbishop said the local committee planning World Youth Day events continues “to focus on the safety of pilgrims as well as the general population during the event”. He added that the military police and municipal guard would closely monitor the situation.

“I think that there will not be any safety issues, whether for the pope or for those in attendance as we are studying everything down to the smallest details, to all of the minutiae,” he said.

The protests have expanded since the first were organized primarily by student groups in mid-June to protest against an increase in public transportation fares. Protesters have since expanded the list of grievances with the government to include high taxation rates, decreased government services and attention to massive public projects such as stadium construction while vital social needs go unmet.

Government officials estimated that nearly 1.2 million people participated in protests across the country on June 20. The mayors of Brazilian cities, such as Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, announced on June 19 that they were revoking transportation tariff increases.

“These demonstrations show us that it is not possible to live in a country with such inequalities,” said the bishops’ document.

The document also emphasised that the Church strongly opposes the violence that has erupted and the destruction of private property as the protests have grown.

  • Marco

    I live in Brazil and have been in the middle of the protests as they take over all major avenues; Brazil is one of the highest taxed countries in the world with sales taxes reaching up to 1000% for some basic necessity items like cell phones and cars. It also has some of the worst public services in the world such as poor street maintenance, low education quality, and poor police protection. The large amounts of tax money goes into corrupt politicians’ pockets, as has been done with the excessive spending on World Cup stadium construction. Its about time the people here said no to this corruption.

  • guest

    One only has to read about Cafod’s connect2brazil project, or Oxfam’s Grow campaign, to recognise the great challenges facing this fascinating, complex and devout country.

  • Antonia

    Oh dear. I hope to travel to World youth day 2013 if the good Lord tarries…. I am from a very small Caribbean island and theses protests are frightening!!!!!! oh dear lord!!!!

  • tanmara

    I am in support of the Brasilian protesters. My wife has family in Brasil. Our family group was invited to WYD to sing and the WYD representatives later uninvited us. Although we had paid for plane tickets and pilgrim fees, WYD representatives would not give us our money back for the pilgrim fees. Brasilian representatives who control WYD are infected by what is being worshiped today, MONEY!

    All forms of oppression take place because of money, and when it enters GOD’S arena as is the case of WYD, you know that nothing is sacred any longer.

    I am in support of the Brasilian Protesters and I pray that they win from every stand point. The USA needs them over here to show us what justice is. The USA has no justice either, just money that talks.