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Pope Francis

The election of the first-ever Pope has produced a deluge of coverage. The mainstream media have repeatedly stressed Pope Francis’ humility, his simple lifestyle and his sympathy for the poor, but in her article, the Brazilian religious sister and feminist Ivone Gebara is quick to puncture this euphoria (Read More).

Further doubts have been expressed about the new pope and his past record in his native Argentina as well as in the rest of the continent. Part of this questioning arises from Argentina’s turbulent recent past. During the last military dictatorship from 1976 to 1984, the then Jorge Mario Bergoglio was Provincial Superior  (local head) of the Jesuits. The noted Peronist journalist Horacio Verbitsky investigated Bergoglio’s alleged complicity in the arrest and imprisonment of two Jesuit priests in his book El Silencio, which looked more broadly at the links between the hierarchy of the Catholic Church and the military rulers in Argentina. Since Bergoglio’s elevation to the papacy, Verbitsky has repeated his allegations (Read More). Human rights activists in Argentina have also challenged the role that Bergoglio played during the years of dictatorship (Read More).

Another Argentine, the sociologist Fortunato Malliacci, also questions whether the new pope will be a force for the renovation of the Catholic Church and its tarnished image (Read More). Fellow Jesuit Jon Sobrino, who was worked with communities in El Salvador for many years, looks at how far Pope Francisco will actively campaign on behalf of the poor throughout the world, and concludes ‘he is no Monsignor Romero’ (Read More: in Spanish). LAB editor Nick Caistor contributed a wider article on the gap between liberation theology and the Catholic Church authorities in recent years for BBC Online (Read More).

There is no doubt that Pope Francisco faces many tough challenges if he is to restore the Catholic Church’s position in Latin America and throughout the world. Although the figure of 1.2 billion Catholics has often been repeated in recent weeks, a considerable proportion of those born into the faith have either left it or have been attracted by the new, more vigorous forms of Christianity offered by the evangelical churches (Read more). In two blogs specially commissioned by LAB, the sociologist David Lehmann looks at the extraordinary growth of these churches in Brazil (Read More) and how this expansion has rendered old stereotypes  obsolete (Read More).
 
Other news

BRAZIL: Indians from different ethnic groups have lost their struggle to set up the indigenous village of Maracanã and have been violently evicted, says Nayana Fernandez in her latest blog for LAB. Read more.

EL SALVADOR: It’s 20 years since the country’s Truth Commission published its report but how many of the problems highlighted in the report have been tackled? Read more.

PERU: It was tight but Lima’s left-of-centre mayor, Susana Villarán, survived a recall vote in late March. LAB’s Nick Caistor reports. Read more.

SOUTH ATLANTIC: The USA is marshalling its allies to confront the growing power of UNASUR, led by Brazil, suggests the Peruvian economist, Oscar Ugarteche. Read more.

VENEZUELA: Demonstrating once again its unrivalled ability to stage lively and even-handed debates, Al Jazeera brought together analysts with very different points of view (one of them The Guardian’s regional editor Rory Carroll) to discuss Hugo Chávez’s legacy. It proved a riveting discussion. View here.

Now attention is shifting to the elections scheduled for 14 April to choose Chávez’s successor. Although Chávez’s designated heir Nicolás Maduro has a very comfortable majority in the opinion polls, Frederick B. Mills from Washington-based Council On Hemispheric Affairs suggests that the opposition may have a few tricks up its sleeve.Read more.

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