Associated Press
Pope Francis's first international visit, marred by felling of centuries-old trees in Brazil.

Falling for the Pope: 300 Ancient Trees Axed for Papal Visit in Brazil

July 17, 2013

Pope Francis has opted not to travel in bulletproof vehicles during his upcoming trip to Brazil, but 300 centuries-old trees have apparently not been afforded divine protection.

The Catholic Church chopped down the trees to make room for a youth event when the Pope arrives later in July on his first international trip to the world’s largest Roman Catholic country, the Daily Mail reported.

The Brazilian government is livid even though the diocese of Sao Sebastiao de Itaipu has offered to offset the centennial destruction with a crop of new trees. The 334 trees were on church-owned land adjoining Serra da Tiririca national park, the Daily Mail said. About 800 pilgrims are expected to attend the event, and the church said it needed to carve out the space in the Atlantic rainforest for an event involving the Pope.

‘The incident is lamentable. An event for youth should be educational and demonstrate a commitment to the environment and the future. This removal is a criminal act,” said Axel Grael, the vice-mayor of the city of Niteroi, where the diocese is located.

“What was razed was the buffer zone of the Tiririca park,” said Andre Ilha, an official from the state environment institute in Rio de Janeiro, according to the British newspaper. “We would never have authorized that. It is a fragment of the endangered Atlantic rainforest. We will charge them with a crime.”

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