Meeting on September 10 with a group of bishops from Brazil, Pope Benedict XVI said that the Catholic Church has always been a crucial part of the Brazilian identity. But that identity is now challenged, he said, by the rapid rise of Evangelical sects.
The Pope remarked to the Brazilian bishops, who were finishing their ad limina visits to Rome, that Brazil has always been marked by “harmonious coexistence among people from different regions and cultures.” What is remarkable about recent changes in that country, he said, is the growth of influences that were “practically unknown just a few decades ago.”
The rise of Protestant sects, the Pope continued, testifies to “a widespread thirst for God.” But at the same time, the fact that so many people who were raised as Catholics now seek religious support elsewhere suggests that the evangelical efforts of their Catholic pastors has been “sometimes superficial.” “In this context it is necessary, first and foremost, for the Catholic Church in Brazil to commit to a new evangelisation which spares no efforts in seeking out lapsed Catholics and people who know little or nothing of the evangelical message, bringing them to a personal encounter with the living person of Jesus Christ Who is active in His Church,” the Pope said.
The Pontiff went on to say that Catholics must recognize the new influence of other Christian groups, and establish an ecumenical dialogue with them. Otherwise, he said, “the lack of unity is a cause of scandal” that inhibits evangelization. He cautioned, too, that true ecumenism should be characterized not by “doctrinal indifference” but by mutual respect and a shared commitment to serve Christ.