Brazil “values voters” go YouTube against prez hopeful Rousseff

pastor022The YouTube video that helped push Brazil’s presidential election to a second round begins with Paschoal Piragine solemnly telling his flock: “In 30 years as a pastor, I’ve never done this before.” He then warns them that the ruling Workers’ Party wants not only to legalize abortion, but would make divorce easier, permit the spread of pornography, and continue to allow tribes in the Amazon to bury alive “thousands of children.”

The video, which includes disturbing images and has received nearly 3 million views, concludes with the Baptist preacher telling his followers not to vote for the Workers’ Party in upcoming elections. “Otherwise, God will judge our land,” Piragine says.

The last-minute doubts of many evangelical Christian and Catholic voters probably cost Workers’ Party presidential candidate Dilma Rousseff an outright first-round victory in last Sunday’s election, polls suggest. The shift is unlikely to keep Rousseff from winning an October 31 runoff vote against her nearest contender, opposition leader Jose Serra.

pastor033Yet the twice-divorced former Marxist guerrilla, who in past interviews has questioned the existence of God and supported greater abortion rights, will face enduring scrutiny from an increasingly powerful bloc of “values voters” that could prove a major source of opposition if she takes office. (Images: Paschoal Piragine in screengrabs from YouTube video posted below)

The election could signal a sea change in Brazil’s politics in which social issues begin to trump economic ones for some voters as the country enjoys an unprecedented run of growth. Rousseff could also face constant resistance to her agenda from a faith-based movement or party in the same way that Democratic Party presidents have in the United States since the 1990s.

Rousseff courts Brazil’s faith voters with “for life” comments

dilma (Photo: Brazilian presidential candidate Dilma Rousseff in Brasilia, October 5, 2010/Ueslei Marcelino)

Brazil’s ruling party candidate Dilma Rousseff is playing up her Roman Catholic background in efforts to win back religious voters, whose doubts about her faith and position on abortion rights may have cost her an outright victory in Sunday’s presidential election.

In a surprise shift, many religious voters who oppose abortion, especially evangelical Christians, abandoned Rousseff’s  center-left Workers’ Party to vote for the Green Party’s Marina Silva, who captured an unexpectedly large 19 percent of the vote.

“Personally, I’m from a Catholic family. I am and always was in favor of life,” Rousseff told reporters on Tuesday outside of her campaign headquarters in Brasilia. “I have no problem addressing the religious issue. My project addresses all the religions.”

Chile RC bishops sorry for abuse, Brazilian priests scandal

christ statue

The statue of "Christ the Redeemer" is enshrouded in clouds atop Corcovado mountain in Rio de Janeiro, 8 Oct 1999/Gregg Newton.

The Roman Catholic Church in Chile on Tuesday said there had been 20 confirmed or alleged cases of child abuse by priests, and asked for forgiveness from the victims.

Monsignor Alejandro Goic, head of Chile’s bishops’ conference, said that in five of the cases sentences had been imposed, in another five trials were still under way, and in 10 others priests had been absolved or results were pending.

A 7-year-old Rio Carnival queen parades in tears and controversy


Julia Lira is led by her father Marco (L) to their contingent in the Carnival parade in Rio de Janeiro, 14 Feb 2010/Bruno Domingos

A tearful 7-year-old Carnival queen led exuberant drummers through Rio de Janeiro’s  Sambadrome stadium on Sunday, in a distressed state that may add to controversy over whether a tiny child should perform such a high-pressure, sexually-charged role.

Wearing a short purple dress, a sequined halter and a silver tiara, Julia Lira emerged blinking into the bright lights and deafening fireworks of the Sambadrome and soon burst into tears as photographers and reporters scrummed around her before her samba group started its parade.

Amazon infanticide video and U.S. Christian missionaries

The video shows a near-naked Indian in a remote Amazon village as he digs a large hole. A terrified child is pulled out of a hut and placed in the freshly dug grave. Soon his body and face are covered in earth.

Is this a powerful indictment of the practice of infanticide by Indian tribes in the Amazon, or a distortion of the truth and an incitement to hatred by U.S. Christian missionaries?

indiansThe tribal rights group Survival International hit out this week at the “Hakani” video, which has several edited versions online,  calling it faked and a dangerous exaggeration of the problem of infanticide practiced by Indian tribes.  The video, made with the support of a U.S.-based evangelical missionary group Youth With A Mission, seems to be an attempt to rally support for a proposed Brazilian law that would ban infanticide and other harmful practices by indigenous tribes. When contacted by Reuters, Youth With A Mission said it wouldn’t comment on what it called baseless allegations.

Vatican edits pope on condoms and AIDS solutions

pope-in-planePope Benedict’s comments about condoms on his flight to Cameroon have made headlines worldwide. They have been quoted extensively on many websites run by news organisations and also by the Vatican. But that hasn’t stopped the same Vatican from editing them after the fact to try to make them sound more acceptable. (Photo: Pope Benedict answers questions in the plane to Africa, with Rev. Georg Gänswein (L) and Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone (C), 17 March 2009//Alessandro Bianchi)

The main change on the Vatican website comes in the most controversial part, where he says: “It (AIDS) cannot be overcome by the distribution of condoms. On the contrary, they increase the problem.” This was criticised in Europe and the United States as going beyond a doctrinal question and spreading untruths about public health policies. Now the Vatican’s Bollettino (daily bulletin — here in the original Italian) has watered this down to have him say:   “On the contrary, the risk is that they increase the problem.” The Milan daily Corriere della Sera has the original transcript in Italian.

The Vatican editors also softened the pope’s talk about solutions. In the original, he said: “The problem of AIDS cannot be solved only with money …” In the new version, this comes out as: “The problem of AIDS cannot be solved only by advertising slogans …”

Nine-year-old’s abortion stirs Brazil debate

Stuart Grudgings in Rio de Janeiro writes: The Roman Catholic Church’s strong opposition to an abortion carried out this week on a nine-year-old Brazilian girl suspected to have been raped by her stepfather has highlighted the uphill struggle that abortion reform advocates face in the Latin American country.

The reaction of the archbishop in northeastern Pernambuco state, who excommunicated the mother of the girl and the doctors, was criticized by Brazil’s health minister as “extreme.” Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who has described abortion as a public issue rather than a moral one, also weighed in, saying “medicine is more correct than the Church.”

Debate in Brazil about the long taboo subject of abortion — which remains illegal except in cases of rape and when the mother’s life is in danger — has sprouted in recent years. The country’s Supreme Court is due to rule this year on whether the exceptions can extend to anencephalic pregnancies, when the fetus has no brain. But despite a rise in the number of legal abortions in recent years, opposition to reform remains stiff — principally from the Catholic Church, but also among a majority of Brazilians, polls show. Pope Benedict made opposition to abortion the cornerstone of his visit to the world’s most populous Catholic country two years ago.

End of an era for the Amazon’s turbulent priests

Liberation Theology has long been out of fashion at the Vatican, but its effects have lived on in Latin America. One is a tradition of foreign-born Catholic priests who went to the region to preach its message of justice for the poor and oppressed. But the falling number of priests in Europe and the United States and a turn away from this activist view of the Gospels has taken its toll. The clerics defending peasants against landowners and denouncing child prostitution, drug trafficking and illegal logging are growing old and the flow of foreign priests is drying up. There are Brazilian priests, but with family members living in the country, they are often more vulnerable to death threats.

Stuart Grudgings, senior correspondent in our Rio de Janeiro bureau, travelled to Abaetetuba at the mouth of the Amazon in northeastern Brazil to visit Italian-born Bishop Flavio Giovenale and other members of this disappearing breed of priests.

Read the whole feature here. (Photo left: Bishop Flavio Giovenale, 11 Feb 2009/Paulo Santos) (Photo right: Sunset over Abaetetuba, 28 Sept 2008/Paulo Santos)

Holier than thou? Rio’s Christ statue has rival

A little-known Brazilian farming town with sugar cane wealth is set to upstage Rio de Janeiro by erecting a statue of Christ this year that will eclipse its famous equivalent atop Rio’s Corcovado mountain.

The Christ statue in Sertaozinho, northwest of Sao Paulo city, will be 187 feet (57 meters) tall when perched on its 128 foot (39-metre) pedestal. (Photo: Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio, 5 June 2005/Bruno Domingos)

Here’s our story about it and the full Folha de Sao Paulo report on the statue (in Portuguese).

Thumbs down for giant Jesus statue in the Bavarian Alps

Christ the Redeemer statue overlooking Rio de JaneiroA German businessman has plans to erect the world’s largest statue of Jesus Christ on a mountaintop in the Bavarian Alps. Neither the Catholic nor the Protestant churches there want it. A poll for the television channel Bayerischer Rundfunk showed 77.54 percent of those responding are also against it. The planners are not giving up, however. In a press release this week, they urged their critics to use the coming Christmas season to reconsider and open their hearts to “more tolerance and positive participation.” That includes a fund drive to raise the two million euros the project will cost.

Harry Vossberg, a construction magnate from Dresden, has launched an association called Christian Initiative Predigtstuhl to collect money for the over 50-meter-high statue. That would make it at least 10 metres higer than the famous Christ the Redeemer statue overlooking Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. In its PR, the association calls the statue “the eighth wonder of the world.”

The giant statue, constructed to the highest artistic standards, will be built with the help of prestigious experts, engineers and statue artists out of permanently weather-proof and environmentally friendly materials,” said the press release announcing the project last month. “The exact height is secret. Completely new composite materials, such as ‘liquid wood,’ will be used. The base of the statue will include a room for pilgrims to pray and meet.”