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Roman Catholicism in Brazil: Wikis


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Pope Benedict XVI in his official visit to Brazil, in May, 2007.

There are an estimated 145 million Catholics in Brazil - the highest number of any country in the world, representing 74% (International Religious Freedom Report 2005) of the Brazilian population. Although these figures seem high, Catholicism in Brazil is more of a tradition than a religion itself (as, for example, religion -- especially evangelical Protestantism and traditional Catholicism -- is in the United States). It is a common ritual for newborns to be baptized, which, according to Catholic teaching and its sacramental sturcture, makes them part of the church. Beyond that, true believers (according to traditional Catholics) are a much smaller percentage of the population. Very few Brazilians actually take every doctrine seriously or attend mass regularly (every Sunday) according to strict Catholic teaching. In the United States, they would be called "cafeteria Catholics."

There are over 250 dioceses and other territorial jurisdictions in the country.


It is said that the first Mass celebrated in Brazil was on Easter Sunday in the year 1500 by a priest in the party who claimed possession for Portugal. Evangelization began some years later, and a diocese was erected in 1551. The Church showed notable progress in the colonial period, especially 1680-1750, even though hampered by government policy. The Church and government had contrary goals as regarding the Amazon Indians, whom the government was exploiting and reducing to slavery. In 1782, the Jesuits were suppressed, and other missionaries expelled as well. Liberal anti-clerical influence grew, and the government tightened control on the Church. After Brazil declared independence from Portugal in 1822, government control became even tighter, under the new emperors (Pedro I & II, son and grandson of the King of Portugal). In 1891, Brazil became a republic and approved a constitution which freed the Church from state control. In the 20th century, such controversial issues as theological liberalism and the question of the mixing of Catholic ritual with rites from other sources continued to provoke much discussion within the Church.

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