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Archive for Saturday, May 12, 2007

Pope Benedict canonizes first Brazilian-born saint

May 12, 2007

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Pope Benedict XVI waves to the crowd from the popemobile in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The pope used an open-air Mass on Friday to stress the importance of sexual morality

Pope Benedict XVI waves to the crowd from the popemobile in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The pope used an open-air Mass on Friday to stress the importance of sexual morality

— Pope Benedict XVI castigated popular culture for promoting sexual immorality Friday as he canonized Brazil's first native-born saint before hundreds of thousands of faithful and a sea of flags in the world's largest Roman Catholic nation.

Holding up Friar Antonio de Sant'Anna Galvao as a model of rectitude and humility "in an age so full of hedonism," Benedict said the world needs clear souls and pure minds, adding: "It is necessary to oppose those elements of the media that ridicule the sanctity of marriage and virginity before marriage."

Benedict didn't elaborate, but his message for Brazilian Catholics reflected his uneasiness with the effects of popular culture on young people.

Earlier this year, Benedict declared that "any trend to produce programs and products - including animated films and video games - which in the name of entertainment exalt violence and portray antisocial behavior or the trivialization of human sexuality is a perversion."

Later, meeting with the country's 430 bishop's in Sao Paulo's cathedral, Benedict lamented that Brazil is in the midst of "difficult times for the church" amid "aggressive proselytizing" by born-again Protestant congregations.

The census says the percentage of Brazilians characterizing themselves as Catholics dropped from 89 percent in 1980 to 74 percent in 2000, while those calling themselves evangelical Protestants rose from 7 percent to 15 percent.

Benedict's message on immorality could be a tough sell in hedonistic Brazil. Sex before marriage is common. Scantily clad actresses are the norm on hugely popular TV soap operas, and most women on Brazil's famed beaches wear bikinis that leave little to the imagination.

"Nothing could be more countercultural than his message in Brazil, the land of the thong," said David Gibson, author of "The Rule of Benedict: Pope Benedict XVI and His Battle with the Modern World."

Brazilian news media said the crowd reached about 1 million - as church officials had hoped for - although there were large empty spaces on the airfield in South America's largest city.

Benedict pronounced the sainthood of Galvao, a Franciscan monk credited by the church with 5,000 miracle cures, while he sat on a throne of Brazilian hardwood, surrounded by Latin American bishops and choirs of hundreds.

Galvao is the first native-born saint from Brazil, home to more than 120 million of the planet's 1.1 billion Catholics, and the 10th to be canonized by Benedict.

His canonization continues a push for saints in Latin America and elsewhere in the developing world that began under John Paul II, who sought role models as part of the church's worldwide reach. John Paul canonized more saints than all of his predecessors combined.

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