U-Michigan experts available to discuss pope’s visit to Latin America

July 6, 2015
Contact: umichnews@umich.edu

EXPERTS ADVISORY

Pope Francis is in Latin America this week for a visit to Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay. This is Pope Francis’s second trip to Latin America, having fulfilled Pope Benedict’s commitment to attend World Youth Day in Brazil in July 2013.

University of Michigan experts are ready to discuss his visit, as well as its significance for Latin America and the Catholic Church.

Daniel Ramirez, assistant professor of history and American culture, is an expert on Latin American religious history and culture. He’s fluent in Spanish and English.

“In general, the Americas represent the global bulwark for Roman Catholicism, and this bulwark is showing signs of serious slippage. What the national figures do not show is the most serious trend: the indigenous Americas are slipping away at a higher rate, mostly to evangélico and other non-Catholic groups,” he said. “As peripheral countries, (Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay) represent this pope’s advocacy for the economically disenfranchised and vulnerable.

“Liberation theologians and others will be parsing every sermon and statement for Francis’s reconciliatory approach to that school of thought. Ecumenicists will be watching for reconciliatory gestures toward non-Catholic Christians.”

Contact Ramirez: 209-406-8684 or dramire@umich.edu.


 

Daniel Levine, professor emeritus of political science at U-M, is a professor of political science at the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú. He’s fluent in Spanish and English. He has published widely on issues of religion, politics and democratization in Latin America.

“The visit of Pope Francis to Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay is timely particularly in light of his recent encyclical on the environment. Environmental issues–particularly concerning the impact of mining of ecosystems, farming and access to land and water–have been flash points in recent years throughout the Andean region. The pope’s encyclical underscores the relation between ecological issues and inequality, a link that is evident in the Andes where a large proportion of the population is of indigenous origin, poor and rural, and continues to experience multiple forms of discrimination.”

Contact Levine: 734-657-4996, dhldylan@umich.edu.


 

Brian Porter-Szücs, professor of history, is an expert in Roman Catholicism and said Pope Francis’ pastoral style is interesting to observe.

“Benedict was concerned about clarity, having a message that was unambiguous and rigorous even if that meant the church was smaller. He was a theologian. Francis is the pastoral pope. This approach is going to be helpful in Latin America where the church has been losing members to protestant churches. Francis’ approach is very appealing and is going to be enormously helpful in Latin America,” he said, adding that it will also help increase the Catholic church’s declining political clout.

“His influence among non-Catholics is even more powerful. Now he’s every non-Catholic’s favorite pope because he’s talking about issues that transcend denominations.”

Contact Porter-Szücs: 734-330-2626, baporter@umich.edu.