The Pope and Latin America: Mission from the Periphery
What difference does it make that Pope Francis is from Latin America? One of his first visits as Pope was to the World Youth Conference in Rio de Janeiro, and he has made several well-publicized trips to other destinations in the Americas since then. Catholicism certainly has its challenges in Latin America, but it is still the dominant religion and has a rich and distinctive history in the region. This chapter contextualizes Pope Francis in the historical background of the last fifty years in Latin America. It focuses on the socioeconomic and political drama of those decades as well as on the development of a distinctive pastoral mind-set (including a view of politics) among the highest leaders of the Church in Latin America. When he was a cardinal, Pope Francis’s participation in the Conference of Aparecida in 2007—in which he played a leading role—was absolutely critical in the development of his vision for church and society moving forward.