Latin America favoured Pope John Paul
The ghost of John Paul will be following Pope Benedict at every step of his trip to Mexico and...
The ghost of John Paul will be following Pope Benedict at every step of his trip to Mexico and Cuba.
John Paul, who died in 2005, was a huge draw in Latin America, visiting every one of the region's countries at least once.
He drew crowds, sloshed through swampy slums in Ecuador, challenged Maoist guerrillas in the Peruvian highlands and defended miners' rights in Bolivia.
The more cerebral, sedate and shy Benedict, who enters the eighth year of his papacy in April, is making only his second trip to Latin America and his first to the Spanish-speaking part.
He visited Brazil in 2007.
Opinion polls show that a majority of people in Mexico and Cuba, reflecting the mood throughout Latin America, feel more affection and veneration for John Paul than for Benedict, who they believe understands them and their culture less.
The difference in pre-trip enthusiasm is so palpable that Bishop Jose Guadalupe Martin Rabago of Leon, the Mexican city where Benedict will be based, felt impelled to admonish his flock to stop making comparisons with John Paul.
"From the perspective of faith, all popes are equal and deserve our respect and our loyalty regardless of the charisma they have," he said.
"We need to say this to everyone so they don't expect to see in Pope Benedict a repeat, or, to put it bluntly, a clone of Pope John Paul".
While the Vatican stresses that the papacy cannot be seen as a popularity contest, from a statistical point of view John Paul clearly spread his attention more evenly around the globe, lavishing much of his time and attention on Latin America and the developing world in general.