Pentecostalism was once seen as a major threat to Brazil's Catholic Church. Pentecostal churches, many of them founded by U.S. evangelicals, saw their membership double to more than 12 percent of the country's population over the 1990s, with about half of the congregants estimated to be former Catholics.
During the 1990s, Brazil's economy suffered from hyperinflation and other woes, and Pentecostal churches aggressively recruited in the slums and poor outskirts of Brazil's cities by offering nuts-and-bolts self-improvement advice as well as Christian ministry.
Since 2003, however, Pentecostal churches have seen growth slow. The percentage of Brazilians calling themselves Pentecostals edged up from 12.5 percent of the population to 13.3 percent.
Yet the Catholic Church has continued to lose parishioners, and church leaders have had little success so far in halting that trend.
Brazil was the first nation outside Europe that Pope Benedict XVI visited, during a five-day tour in 2007 largely aimed at stopping losses in Latin America. During the trip, the pope canonized Brazil's first native-born saint.
Then Benedict announced last August during the church's World Youth Day, which drew 1.5 million people to Spain, that the next version of the gathering would be held in Rio de Janeiro in 2013. The pope is expected to attend.
For now, Rossi hopes his big church will bring together tens of thousands of faithful for every Mass, giving new energy to the Catholic faith.
"People want big spaces. They want grand places for prayer," he told the Globo TV network. "One candle illuminates, 10 candles illuminate — and 100,000 candles light up so much more."
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.