Brazil's `pop-star priest' gets mammoth new stage

SAO PAULO - Brazil's "pop-star priest" is already packing in the crowds at a huge new sanctuary he's building in Sao Paolo to stem the exodus of faithful from the Roman Catholic Church.
Brazil still has more Catholics than any other country in the world, with about 65 percent of its 192 million people identifying themselves that way in the 2010 census. But that is down from 74 percent in 2000 and is the lowest since records began tracking religion 140 years ago.
That's where Father Marcelo Rossi's Mother of God sanctuary comes in. The not-yet-finished structure will seat 6,000 people and have standing room for 14,000 more, church leaders say. In addition, the grounds outside can hold 80,000 people who could watch Mass on outdoor video screens. The inaugural Mass on Friday attracted upward of 50,000 people and similar numbers jammed into the huge church Saturday.
It's a fitting stage for Rossi, a Latin Grammy-nominated singer who is known for tossing buckets of holy water on worshippers and performing rollicking Christian songs backed by a blasting live band during Mass.

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