Pope Francis Blesses Brazil with First Foreign Trip

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Carol Hills: I'm Carol Hills in for Marco Werman, this is The World. We begin today with a focus on social justice. Two incidents have sparked large demands for social justice on opposite sides of the globe. In China it was the death of a watermelon vendor. In France it was a confrontation between police and a Muslim woman wearing a full face veil. We'll hear the details of both stories in a few minutes but first we heard to Brazil where Pope Francis today is starting his first foreign trip as leader of the Catholic church. Pope Francis is an outspoken champion of social justice causes and Brazil has been overrun in recent weeks by countless social protests against everything from government corruption to police brutality. Ana Pereira is a journalist in Rio De Janeiro she says Brazilians are excited about the Pope's visit.

Ana Pereira: He is seen with great expectation from everyone here. I mean, a Pope that youth in this region can relate to has been long expected. There is an ongoing joke between Argentine and Brazilians. As you know Brazil is the largest Catholic country in the world with about 123,000 Catholic. That's 64% Catholics in the country. And the joke is that Argentinians can have a Pope that is from the country that is Argentine because God you know, God is Brazilian. So that's ok if the Pope is Argentinean.

Hills: [laughs] Yes there is an age-old rivalry between the two countries. How about in Brazil itself? This is an interesting time for Brazil, a big hulking economy but also a lot of people kind of frustrated and saying hey, we have real needs here. What about his ability to reach that side of Brazil?

Pereira: It's an interesting…it's an important time for this Pope to come to Brazil. He is seen as a Pope that can reach out to social injustice, to the youth. He seems to be an inclusive Pope but I think it's too early to tell what he can really achieve. He is new in his position so let's see what kind of work he can do to mark his legacy as a Pope.

Hills: He's supposed to spend most of his trip in Rio and he's visiting one of the city's slums or Favelas. What do, what do people there want to hear from him?

Pereira: I think they want to hear the solution to all their problems but if you think about religion in Brazil, Catholics have lost ground over the years to the Evangelicals. So there is a hope that this new Pope will be able to bring people back to the Catholic church. Definitely people here see Pope Francis as a lot closer to them. The kind of Pope that is more understanding to their reality.

Hills: Does, does he have a voice with the Brazilian government at all in terms of recommending how they address kind of poverty or social issues in the country?

Pereira: I don't think it's his intent to mix up with politics a lot. Primarily because of the demonstrations that have been going on in the country and uh he is expected to break many of the protocols for Head of the State visiting Brazil. One example is that he was supposed to meet with the President of Brazil, the Governor and Mayor of Rio upon his arrival and he has chosen to greet the people first. So he's going to do a quick tour in his open car through downtown Rio before he met with the authorities. But as far as getting involved with politics, not directly as some people might expect. He's going to do this, he's going to send his message to the people by reaching out to the thousands of youths that are going to be in Rio for the World Youth Day.

Hills: Ana Pereira is a journalist in Rio De Janeiro. Thanks Ana.

Paidia: Thank you.