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Pope Francis is headed to Brazil next week for World Youth Day. He plans on visiting slums and meeting with prisoners, with some hoping his visit will spark "social and economic change for the region."

He's not off to a good start after news comes that the Catholic Church destroyed hundreds of centuries-old trees in preparation for his visit:

A total of 334 trees at the edge of the Serra da Tiririca national park, but also on church-owned land, were felled.

Niteroi's vice-mayor, Axel Grael, claimed the church did not seek permission to ‘deforest’ the land.

He told Brazil's O Globo newspaper: ‘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.’

Andre Ilha, from Rio de Janeiro's state environment institute - which is responsible for the forest - said the destruction would never have been allowed.

This comes on the heels of the Vatican asking Brazil to cough up an extra $39 million for his visit:
The plan was for pilgrims, who had been expected to number up to two million, to fund up to 70 per cent of the costs with registration fees of between £31 and £175, according to Brazil's O Globo newspaper.

But, so far, only about 320,000 pilgrims have registered, with government officials indicating that they now may only be expecting less than half the initial estimate.

Thus far, Brazilian leaders are refusing the extra money.

Pope Francis does appear to want to help poor people, more so than other recent popes, but what a shame his visit has to come at such a heavy price for the Brazilian people.

Originally posted to Scout Finch on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 12:40 PM PDT.

Also republished by Street Prophets .

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