CNS PHOTO | NEY MACONDES, REUTERS
A riot policeman fires his weapon while confronting stone-throwing demonstrators during an anti-government protest in Belem, Brazil, at the mouth of the Amazon River June 20.
Leaders of the Brazilian bishops' conference announced their support for the massive demonstrations sweeping across South America's largest nation, but declined to say how they might affect World Youth Day activities and the visit of Pope Francis in July.
The support was expressed in a document distributed to journalists by Archbishop Raymundo Damasceno Assis of Aparecida, bishops' conference president.
The document said the conference "declares its solidarity and support to these demonstrations, as long as they are peaceful."
The protests were first organized primarily by student groups in mid-June to protest a 10-cent increase in public transportation fares.
Protesters have since expanded the list of grievances to include high taxation rates, decreased government services and attention to massive public projects such as stadium construction while vital social needs go unmet.