Brazil: Millions gather to hear Pope’s address

Pope Francis Continues His Visit To Rio De Janeiro

Pope calls on youth to change the world; Pope attacks anti-drug war legislation; Slutwalk protests organised during Pope visit 

Millions gather to hear Pope’s address

On the fifth day of his first papal trip to Brazil, Pope Francis delivered a speech at a vigil on Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana beach in which he urged young people to change the world.

Crowds of up to two million people gathered to see the Argentine pope on Saturday 27 July. In his address, the pope hailed the world’s youth as the only legitimate “actors of change” and called upon society to take responsibility for educating new generations in more ethical political and economic values​​.

“The future demands that today the task be policy reform, which is one of the greatest forms of charity. The future requires a more humanist vision of economy and policy that offers a more inclusive participation to avoid elitism and eradicate poverty. No one should lack what is necessary, and what matters is that there is dignity, brotherhood and solidarity”, he said.

In the meeting which also brought together regional politicians, business leaders, religious leaders and prominent social movements, the pope referred to the recent flurry of protests that gripped the country and called for more dialogue and transparency between sectors.

“Between the selfishness of indifference and violent protests there is always another possible option: that of dialogue”, he urged.

At a mass earlier in the day, the 76 year old pontiff also renewed his call for priests to go out of their cloistered parishes and enter communities more. “It is in the favelas… that we must go to seek and serve Christ,” he told thousands of bishops and priests from around the world at a mass at the city’s St Sebastian Cathedral.

The Vatican has been alarmed by the growing strength of Evangelical Protestant churches in Brazil, as well as the spread of secularism. “We cannot keep ourselves shut up in parishes, in our communities, when so many people are waiting for the Gospel,” he said. 

Pope attacks anti-drug war legislation

Pope Francis has criticised drug legalisation plans in Latin America during the inauguration of a clinic for drug addicts in Rio de Janeiro, warning against plans to decriminalise drugs in the region.

“A reduction in the spread and influence of drug addiction will not be achieved by the liberalisation of drug use, as is currently being proposed in various parts of Latin America,” the pontiff said.

“How many dealers of death there are that follow the logic of power and money at any cost! The scourge of drug-trafficking, that favours violence and sows the seeds of suffering and death, requires of society as a whole an act of courage,” he continued.

Drug violence has killed hundreds of thousands of people in Latin America, and over 70,000 in Mexico since 2006 alone.  Many leaders in the region such as Guatemala’s president Otto Pérez Molina, have called for the legalisation of drugs, a vision shared by ex-presidents in Brazil, Mexico and Colombia but opposed by the US.

Despite efforts, measures to date have proven to have little impact on the war on drugs and many Latin American leaders have encountered stiff resistance in the U.N., despite repeated calls for the global organisation to arrange an international conference on drug-policy alternatives that go beyond mere prohibition.

Until now no Latin American nation has legalised drugs yet, several have taken steps to decriminalise narcotics, Ecuador has recently enacted a policy decriminalising possession of small amounts of marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and amphetamines, while Uruguayan President Jose Mujica has proposed legalising marijuana, its trade and home cultivation in his country.

Alternative solutions include decriminalising the use of drugs, promoting rehabilitation and imposing softer sentencing on small-traffickers, allowing authorities to focus on large-scale producers. Similar policies have been extremely effective elsewhere for example, the 2001 policy reform in Portugal resulted in major reductions in drug-related problems such as addiction, without resulting in any major changes in overall drug use rates.                                                                                                                                                    

Slutwalk protests organised during Pope visit 

The Brazilian Womens Association staged another ‘SlutWalk’ campaign during the pope’s visit to Brasil. The Marcha das Vadias, held demonstrations on the beaches of Copacabana. Members of the organisation walked through the streets of Rio topless, or wearing suggestive outfits, including nun outfits on July 27 to protest sexual violence against women. 

Rogeria Peixinho, an activist with the campaign, told the Mexican newspaper Milenio. “We want to show that there’s another youth and another way of thinking that is against oppression and the control of female sexuality.” 

SlutWalk’ campaigns originated in Canada in 2011, as a response to the culture of excusing rape by referring to any aspect of a woman’s appearance, however the group also calls for end to sexual violence and better civil rights for all sexualities. 

A gay rights group also planned a beijaco, or kiss-in, where gay couples would kiss each other on the lips during the pope’s speech on Copacabana beach as a response to the Catholic Church’s stance on homosexuality and gay “marriage.”