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Pope Francis In Brazil47:19
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Is this the pope of the poor? Can he help mend Brazil’s ragged edges?

Pope Francis rides in his popemobile in Rio de Janeiro on Monday. (Victor R. Caivano/AP)
Pope Francis rides in his popemobile in Rio de Janeiro on Monday. (Victor R. Caivano/AP)

They mobbed Pope Francis in Rio this week, as the first Latin American pope in history came to Brazil.

But the fact is the Catholic Church has been losing ground in Brazil for decades. Brazilians were 99 percent Catholic. But the latest number is 57 percent.

Francis comes as "the pope of the poor," and his timing is good with that. Huge protests in Brazil in the last month over corruption and inequality, in spite of famous years of boom.

Can the pope pull it all together? Can Brazil?

This hour, On Point: The "pope of the poor," a "must-win" country for Catholics and time of challenge for Brazil.
-- Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Philip Pullella, covers Italy and the Vatican for Reuters. (@PhilipPullella)

Andrew Chesnut, chair of Catholic studies at Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of World Studies and author of "Competitive Spirits: Latin America’s New Religious Economy" and "Born Again in Brazil: The Pentecostal Boom and the Pathogens of Poverty." (@AndrewChestnut1)

Paulo Sotero, director of the Brazil Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Adjunct lecturer on Brazil in the global arena at George Washington University’s Elliot School of International Affairs and former Washington correspondent for O Estado de S.Paulo.

From Tom's Reading List

KCUR: Brazil's Evangelicals A Growing Force In Prayer, Politics: "Pope Francis arrives Monday evening in Rio de Janeiro for a weeklong visit celebrating World Youth Day. Hundreds of thousands of Catholics have made the pilgrimage to see the Argentine-born pontiff, and he is expected to receive a rapturous welcome. Still, Pope Francis's visit comes at a delicate time for the church in Brazil. Catholicism — the nation's main religion — is facing a huge challenge from evangelicals."

The Washington Post: Pope Francis Tries To Bolster Church In Brazil: "With 200 million people, the vast majority of whom profess some faith, Brazil is a huge battleground for souls. It has one in 10 of all the world’s Catholics, making it enormously important to the Vatican. But for years now, Catholicism has been on the losing end of a pitched struggle with increasingly influential evangelical churches."

The Guardian: Thousands On Streets In Brazil Protests: "Violence broke out in central Rio de Janeiro at rush hour following a march by trade unionists estimated at up to 20,000 people. The protest was part of a union-organised national day of action in which demonstrations were held and roads blocked in all 27 Brazilian states."

This program aired on July 24, 2013.

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