VATICAN CITY —
Francis has a busy schedule in Brazil, including a one-day trip to the popular Marian shrine in Aparecida, between Rio and Sao Paolo, a visit with patients at a hospital for the poor and another with juvenile offenders. A highlight will be a walk-through of one of Rio’s slums, or favelas, where Francis is expected to stop inside one home and chat with a family, Lombardi said.
He said the Vatican was well aware of the violent protests that swept across Brazil last month, but said he was confident that the protesters didn’t have a problem with the pope or the Catholic Church and that the Holy See expects Brazilian authorities will handle the situation well.
“We are going with much serenity,” Lombardi said. He added that “The message of the pope is one of solidarity with society and to encourage adequate development for all.”
The nationwide protests first targeted transportation fare increases but quickly expanded to a variety of causes including government corruption, high taxes, poor public services and the billions of dollars being spent for next year’s World Cup soccer tournament and the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
Staging a weeklong youth festival and papal visit doesn’t come cheap for local organizers, either. Brazilian media have reported the cost would be around 320 million to 350 million reals ($145 million to $159 million). Lombardi didn’t give an estimate but said “the money isn’t being thrown out the window to the sea” but is being used to employ people to do work that they otherwise wouldn’t have.
“A great majority of Brazilians are Catholic, so one can imagine that they’re happy that the pope is coming and will follow the event,” he said. “It seems natural that the community commits itself appropriately for such a visit.”