Carlos Alberto Libânio Christo, better known as Frei Betto is a Brazilian writer and theologian.German prelate Joseph Ratzinger, who retired on 28 February after nearly eight years as Pope Benedict XVI, will have considerable influence on the election of his successor. The only difference the resignation of Benedict XVI as head of the Catholic Church will make in Brazil will be the name changes needed on posters advertising his going to Rio de Janeiro in July for the World Youth Day, says Frei Betto.

What will the repercussions be for the Catholic Church, especially in Brazil and the rest of Latin America, of Pope Benedict XVI’s announcement of his resignation on Monday 11 February?

I think that for Brazil, in particular, the only consequence will be having to redo all the publicity for World Youth Day, to be held in 23-28 July in Rio de Janeiro, and replacing images of Benedict XVI with those of his successor, who will be elected in March.

The abdication itself will have no major effects. The election of a new Pope could, depending on the direction in which he steers the Catholic Church.

In that sense, can we look forward to a modernisation of the Church?

I am not optimistic, for the following reasons: Benedict XVI will have a major role in the election of the next Pope. And he has decided to continue to live at the Vatican. It appears that the Church is at risk of having, for a time, dual power.

The new Pope will never do anything to displease his predecessor. Therefore he will maintain the Church’s ban on debating issues like abortion, ending priestly celibacy, the ordination of women to the priesthood, condom use, stem cell research, gay unions, and etcetera.

Only after Benedict XVI dies will we really know what the new Pope thinks and wants.

How did Joseph Ratzinger imprint his conservatism on Latin America and Brazil?

I do not say that Benedict XVI continued the policies of John Paul II (1978-2005) because, in fact, it was Ratzinger who inspired and provided the theoretical background to the conservative measures taken by Karol Wojtyla, the Polish Pope.

They both refused to implement the decisions of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) – a conference held 50 years ago! They both ruled out progressive bishops and appointed conservatives; they gave more importance to movements like the (ultra-conservative) Opus Dei than to pastoral ministry to the poor or basic Christian communities. And they both held Eurocentric worldviews.



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