ACN News: Monday, 6th August 2012 – BRAZIL
Economic boom in northern Brazil: new challenge for the church
By Reinhard Backes
Northern Brazil is in upheaval. The economy is growing rapidly, thus fostering ecological overexploitation and stirring up social conflicts. The Church is faced with enormous challenges. Ulrich Kny, Head of the Latin America section of the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), recently pointed this out after spending around four weeks in the Amazon region. “A big problem is, for example, increasing rural flight. Nearly three fourths of the population of Amazonia now lives in cities. People are uprooted and do not receive genuine care, even from the Church,” states Kny, who also took part in a meeting of 33 bishops from the region during his visit.
According to Kny, the economic expansion has alarming consequences. “There are very severe social conflicts, disputes over land, extreme violence, prostitution and human trafficking. In addition, there is widespread consumption of drugs and the number of sects is rising.” On the periphery of big cities, such as in Manuas on the Rio Negro or in the Belém agglomeration at the mouth of the Amazon, huge new housing areas are appearing, some of them planned, some wild settlements, says Kny. In flood areas umpteen thousands live in shabby structures on stilts, he adds, and in most cases the people are left to their own devices. Kny added: “The bishops face immense pastoral problems. They want to proclaim the Word of God to the people, offer the Eucharist and strengthen pastoral care for families and youth, but there is a shortage of priests, catechists, means of transportation and churches.”
(Fr Evanir Rosa showing ACN staff an improvised chapel in the Archdiocese Manaus.
Alongside, he wants to build a real chapel. © ACN)
For the Church it is almost impossible to keep pace with the growth. One example among many: the number of residents in Castanhal, a port located east of Belém, will nearly double within a few months. Currently two new harbours and 16 new urban districts for more than 110,000 people are under construction. To provide care and support for the faithful, churches are to be built in at least six urban districts. In these efforts the Castanhal diocese depends on solidarity from the outside. “Aid to the Church in Need” has now been asked to provide funding for the building of two places of worship. Last year ACN, which is funded solely from private donations, supported 270 projects in Brazil with a budget of $4.2 million.
Directly under the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity – helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.
The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, Aid to the Church in Need’s Child’s Bible – God Speaks to his Children has been translated into 162 languages and 48 million copies have been distributed all over the world.
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