Dom Hélder Câmara, who died in Recife, Brazil, on August 27, was one of the great leaders of the 20th century. Like most bishops, he was a politician who built links to the rich and powerful. Yet he also had the rare gift of appealing to all groups, including students, revolutionaries and the press. For a while even conservatives liked Dom Hélder.
When the U.S. government imagines the global future, the term BRIC features prominently. The concept was created in 2001 when researchers at Goldman Sachs identified four critical emerging powers—Brazil, Russia, India and China. By 2050, claimed these experts, the BRIC powers would be challenging the U.S. for worldwide economic supremacy. U.S. officials have taken this forecast very seriously.
At first glimpse, Marcelo Rossi is a textbook example of the pastor as showman. A handsome, stylish man in his early forties, he leads a flourishing São Paulo congregation legendary for its music. He dances during worship, performing “the Lord’s aerobics.” And people respond. One of his stadium revivals attracted 70,000 believers.
Any account of the modern expansion of Christianity worldwide must pay respectful attention to Pentecostal and charismatic forms of worship. In Latin America, and most conspicuously in Brazil, this tradition accounts for virtually all of the vast growth of Protestant churches in the past 30 years.
Facing strong criticism after saying in Brazil that Christianity was not forced upon the indigenous people of the Americas, Pope Benedict XVI has admitted to “shadows that accompanied the work of evangelization” in Latin America.
Brazil offers a major example of the explosive growth of evangelical and Pentecostal churches taking place in the Southern Hemisphere. Reportedly 40 new churches open every week in Rio de Janeiro (and for 50 reales—roughly $23—you can register your new church with the government). Estimates of the number of Pentecostals worldwide vary between 115 million and 400 million.