Correio do Estado (Brazil)
A document obtained and released by Wikileaks on Wednesday (6/29/2011) shows that at the time of Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Brazil in 2007, the Vatican was concerned about the growth of evangelicals in the country and had received criticism from the Brazilian Monsignor Stefano Migliorelli (photo), who questioned the authority about the shortage of priests in Latin America.
The telegram sent to Washington on May 6, 2007 reveals conversations between various members of the Vatican and former U.S. Ambassador Francis Rooney, a Republican businessman from the construction industry and major campaign donor to former U.S. President George W. Bush.
The U.S. diplomat made a comparison between the first visit of John Paul II to Brazil in 1980, when Catholics represented 89% of the population and the Census of 2000, when the number of Catholics was 74%.
"Each year, millions of Latin American Catholics leave their churches to join mostly evangelical congregations - a departure actively encouraged, according to the Catholic Church, by the pastors of these new flocks," said Rooney.
He also said that, "according to one analysis, while the Catholic Church focuses on 'saving souls', many of the evangelical churches tackle day-to-day problems while making just enough doctrinal demands to satisfy the Latin American thirst for mysticism."
Without revealing sources, the document says that John Paul II referred to the evangelicals' activities as "sinister" and that one of the main tasks of Benedict XVI would be to awaken the Catholic community and encourage resistance to what the late Pope had called "poaching by the sects".
Migliorelli, then head of the Brazilian section of the Vatican Secretariat of State, had already complained to the American diplomat about the fact that Latin America is not a priority area for the Catholic Church.
According to Migliorelli, Brazil and Latin America are like "mission territory" - lands that have not been exposed "consistently" to the Catholic faith. "We have to approach this like evangelization - starting from scratch," said Migliorelli.
The Monsignor also criticized the quantity and quality of Latin American clergy. "The priest shortage in much of Latin America is far worse than that in the United States," he said. Migliorelli also said that "their [the priests'] level of education is often very low, and they often don't adhere to standards of clerical discipline (celibacy, regular offering of the sacraments, etc.)"
In a topic called "The threat of liberation theology", the U.S. diplomat commented that Pope John Paul II had made great efforts to end "this Marxist analysis of class struggle" promoted "by a significant number of Catholic clergy and lay people, who in a political compromise sometimes sanctioned violence 'on behalf of the people.'"
Migliorelli commented that the Vatican did not intend to touch the subject during the pope's visit. The document continues: "The key is simply for the clergy to be trained more effectively to explain the Church's position to the people, he concluded."
According to the diplomat, John Paul II fought liberation theology with the help of Benedict XVI, but in recent years, it has been popping up in many parts of Latin America.