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Pope arrives in Brazil to counter Protestants' rise

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published May 10, 2007


SAO PAULO, Brazil - Pope Benedict XVI began his first papal trip to Latin America stressing church opposition to abortion Wednesday, suggesting that Catholic politicians in Mexico had excommunicated themselves by legalizing abortion in that nation's capital.

Benedict, who will inaugurate an important regional bishops' conference during his trip, also spoke strongly against abortion during his first speech in Brazil. Speaking in Portuguese, he said he's certain that the bishops will reinforce "the promotion of respect for life from the moment of conception until natural death as an integral requirement of human nature."

Thousands of faithful waited in the cold rain for a glimpse of Benedict, then chanted "Bento, Bento" and waved flags of different South American nations as he blessed them at the monastery where he is staying.

The Vatican says Benedict will confront major challenges during his visit, such as the church's declining influence in Brazil, the rise of evangelism and efforts to expand access to abortions in the region.

On the plane from Rome, Benedict said the exodus of Catholics for evangelical Protestant churches in Latin America was "our biggest worry."

But he said that the spread of Protestantism shows a "thirst for God" in the region and that he intends to lay down a strategy to answer that call.

"We have to become more dynamic, " he said.

ROME

Pius gets panel's nod on path to sainthood

Pope Pius XII, the wartime pontiff some accused of remaining silent during the Holocaust, has taken a step toward sainthood, the Vatican said Wednesday. A panel of bishops and cardinals approved a declaration on Pius' virtues Tuesday and passed it to Pope Benedict XVI, who has to sign it. The Vatican would then have to confirm a miracle attributed to Pius for him to be beatified, and another miracle for him to be made a saint.