The Pope arrived this week in Brazil, ostensibly to push family values. Catholic church officials admit, however, that the pontiff is keen to stem the flow of Catholics to evangelical churches throughout Latin America.
As Phil Davison reports, both sides have called it a holy war.
Rio de Janeiro city authorities erased the offending red ink in time for Pope John Paul's arrival. But not before the defaced posters of the pontiff had shocked Brazilian Catholics. At least half a dozen giant billboards erected to welcome the Pope on Thursday had gun sight targets painted in red over his heart. Others were covered in the sort of graffiti that are routine in Protestant areas of Belfast but would have been unthinkable during the pontiff's first visit to Brazil, South America's biggest Catholic country, in 1980. Thousands of Brazilian troops and police fanned out through Rio's hillside favelas (slums) before the Pope's arrival, detaining drug gang leaders for the duration of the pontiff's four-day visit. Beggars, the homeless and street children were moved to temporary, supervised accommodation. The authorities were concerned at John Paul's decision to travel past the favelas and to stay at the home of Rio Cardinal Eugenio Sales, perched on Sumare mountain amid seven poverty-drug-and violence- ridden shanty towns. Stray bullets from the slums killed 33 people last year. But stray bullets were not the main concern of the 26,000 troops and police called in to protect the Pope. Catholic churchmen blamed the graffiti on "radical fundamentalists", widely seen as a reference to extremists among the growing American-style evangelical churches in Brazil and throughout Latin America. …