Pope Francis, Latin America, and Catholic Charismatic Renewal

By: Michael Wilkinson
Thursday, March 14th, 2013

Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, was announced as the new pope, Pope Francis. He is the first pope from Latin America where the Catholic Church has a long history and represents the largest group of Catholics in the world. Pope Francis is a member of the Society of Jesus, also known as the Jesuits. He is not a member of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. I am not sure he is sympathetic to the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in Latin America either.

However, no doubt, his election will bolster the Catholic Church in Latin America. In his home country of Argentina, the Pentecostals had little impact until the middle of the 20th century when Tommy Hicks was granted unprecedented access to stadiums for mass evangelistic meetings. Still, the Pentecostals do not represent a large number of Christians in Argentina. The Catholic Church in many countries is charismatic and the latitude Catholic charismatics are granted in Latin America keeps many within the fold.

For example, priests like Padre Marcelo Rossi from Brazil have large followings. Rossi is known as “the singing priest” holding large gatherings with thousands of Catholics worshiping freely, arms raised and eyes closed. Rossi’s music is easily found on YouTube where the charismatic priest leads large crowds into renewal.

The Catholic Church is global. It is African, Asian, and Latin American. And it now has a Latin American pope. While not a member of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, Latin American Catholics will most likely respond well to Pope Francis. And it would not surprise me to see Catholic Charismatics benefiting from this election. On the other hand, the euphoria surrounding Pope Francis may be brief if Catholic Charismatics find themselves ignored or marginalized by the new leadership.

Visit Michael Wilkinson’s blog Global Pentecostal Studies for a broader discussion.

If you are interested in engaging the discussion of the pentecostal-charismatic renewal in Latin America and among Latinas/os consider participating in the upcoming conference, Renewal across the Americas, hosted by the Regent Center for Renewal Studies. 

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Michael Wilkinson
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