ROME, August 1, 2014 – On the feast of Saint Anne, patron of Caserta, Pope Francis made a visit to this city. Everything normal? No. Because just two days later Jorge Mario Bergoglio returned to Caserta on a private visit, to meet with an Italian friend he got to know in Buenos Aires, Giovanni Traettino, pastor of a local Evangelical church.
Initially Francis's intention was to go only to visit his friend, with the bishop of Caserta left completely in the dark, and it took some doing to convince the pope to expand his schedule in order not to overlook the sheep of his fold.
In Francis the collegiality of governance is more evoked than practiced. The style is that of a superior general of the Jesuits who in the end decides everything on his own. This can be grasped from his actions, his words, his silences.
For example, Bergoglio has spent weeks behind the scenes cultivating relationships with the heads of the powerful “Evangelical” communities of the United States. He has spent hour after hour in their company at his residence in Santa Marta. He has invited them for lunch. He immortalized one of these convivial moments by giving a high five, amid raucous laughter, to Pastor James Robinson, one of the most successful American televangelists.
When no one knew anything about it yet, it was Francis who alerted them about his intention to go visit their Italian colleague in Caserta, and explained the reason: "To extend the apologies of the Catholic Church for the damage that has been done to them by obstructing the growth of their communities.”
As the Argentine he is, Bergoglio has experienced first-hand the overwhelming expansion of the Evangelical and Pentecostal communities in Latin America, which continue to take enormous masses of faithful away from the Catholic Church. And yet he has made this decision: not to fight their leaders, but to make them his friends. ...
We interrupt this Sandro Magister column for an important announcement: "The Temple of Solomon has reopened!"
No, not the original Temple, of course: all over the news (cf. reports at the Times and in Forbes magazine), one can see the announcement of a bizarre gaudy 300-million-dollar supposed replica built by a Pentecostal sect in the largest Brazilian city, Sao Paulo. We wish to offer our readers a glimpse of how much the Catholic Church has "obstructed the growth" (in the Pope's words) of these Pentecostal communities in Latin America. This image by a regional magazine was sent to us by local reader JC:
Those are the measurements of the large mall-style grotesqueness (HWD: 52-105-121 meters or 170-345-396 ft), but what called the attention of our reader was that comparatively tiny building in the lower left corner. Yes, that belfry belongs to a Catholic church.
It is the Parish Church of Saint John the Baptist, and we were also kindly provided with a translation of excerpts of a recent report:
The damaged stained glass windows no longer display the biblical passages pompously. On several of the kneelers, the cushioned protections for the knees of the penitents are ripped, revealing their filling. The porticoes are filled with severe water infiltration and the marble pillars that support the central nave transept have had their cracks filled with cement. Built over 100 years ago..., the Parish of Saint John the Baptist in the Brás [neighborhood] does not at all recall the majesty of the time of its inauguration, in 1908, when it was considered one of the most relevant religious foundations of its time.With the opening of the portentous "Temple of Solomon" across the street, its problems go beyond the physical aspect to also reflect the change in the religious profile of the Brazilian. Data of the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics published in 2012 reveal a growth of 61.45% in the number of Evangelicals in the past 10 years in the country. [See this relevant 2012 Rorate post.]...In the meantime, the lot occupied by the Parish is exactly one tenth of the "Temple of Solomon"'s lot, and its eucharistic celebrations, that take place according to the demands of the community, are limited to an average of one daily mass. The German pipe organ, at the time [of its inauguration] one of the largest in the city and in Brazil, now lies dusty in one of the towers of the church, in which use is made of less solemn instruments, such as a tambourine and a guitar, to accompany the liturgy. [Source, in Portuguese.]
Sorry, we have run out of things to say.