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CELAM-POPE Nov-18-2005 (260 words) With photo. xxxi

Pope plans to attend Latin American bishops' meeting in Brazil

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI has chosen the Marian sanctuary of Aparecida, Brazil, for the Fifth General Conference of Latin American Bishops in 2007, and said he plans to attend the meeting.

The Latin American bishops' council, known as CELAM, published the news recently on its Web site.

It said the pope communicated his decision in a meeting with Chilean Cardinal Francisco Errazuriz Ossa of Santiago, Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes of Sao Paulo and Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires.

There had been discussion about the possibility of holding the meeting in Rome, to make it more convenient for Pope Benedict, but the pope decided to travel to Latin America because "he understands the significance of his presence in our countries," said Cardinal Errazuriz, the president of CELAM, in a statement.

He said the general conference will be in May 2007. It is expected to focus on the discipleship and role of Catholics in today's world.

Brazil has the largest Catholic population in the world. At the recent Synod of Bishops, however, Cardinal Hummes said the number of Catholics was declining by about 1 percent each year, with many Catholics joining Protestant sects.

"We have to wonder: How long will Brazil be a Catholic country?" he asked.

CELAM held its last general conference in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, in 1992. It was preceded by conferences in Puebla, Mexico, in 1979 and Medellin, Colombia, in 1968. CELAM grew out of the first conference, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1955.


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