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WYD 2013: Pope calls for ‘culture of solidarity’ as he visits Rio slum

By on Thursday, 25 July 2013

Residents of Varginha welcome the Pope's arrival (AP)

Residents of Varginha welcome the Pope's arrival (AP)

Pope Francis denounced a “culture of selfishness and individualism” and called for a “culture of solidarity” during a visit to one of Rio de Janeiro’s slums.

While stressing the need to alleviate material suffering, he also said that real human development requires the promotion of moral values, to satisfy a “deeper hunger, the hunger for a happiness that only God can satisfy”.

The speech was the Pope’s first major statement on social and economic questions during his visit to Brazil, a country that has enjoyed years of strong economic growth but is currently in turmoil over widespread dissatisfaction with government policies.

The Pope arrived at Varginha in Rio just before 11am local time and began his visit with a short ceremony in the small local chapel, where he blessed the altar before a congregation of more than 100 people.

Afterwards, Pope Francis walked through the city’s streets, apparently indifferent to the rain, stopping often to greet many of those crowding tightly around him. Loud cheers accompanied him as residents reached out for his hand or to take his photo with their mobile phones.

At one point, the Pope entered a resident’s house, festooned with balloons in the yellow and white colours of the Vatican flag. He spent 15 minutes inside and, according to the Vatican spokesman, he greeted more than 20 people of all ages packed into a small room.

After more than half an hour, the Pope stepped on to a stage overlooking a football field, where more than 20,000 people had gathered from Varginha and surrounding neighborhoods. One resident, Rangler dos Santos Irineu, formally greeted the Pope with a speech in which he noted that Varginha had received new street lighting and newly paved roads in the weeks prior to the papal visit.

In his own speech, Pope Francis thanked residents for their hospitality and said they and other Brazilians could “offer the world a valuable lesson in solidarity, a word that is too often forgotten or silenced, because it is uncomfortable”.

Turning to address a wider audience, the Pope urged the world’s wealthy, public officials and “all people of good will who are working for social justice” to “never tire of working for a more just world” and greater equality.

In a possible allusion to anti-government protests in Brazilian cities since early June, the Pope said young people “have a particular sensitivity toward injustice” and are “often disappointed by facts that speak of corruption on the part of people who put their own interests before the common good”.

He urged those opposing injustice and corruption not to yield to discouragement: “Do not lose trust, do not allow your hope to be extinguished … Do not grow accustomed to evil, but defeat it.”

Echoing a famous revolutionary slogan, Pope Francis said: “Everybody, according to his or her particular opportunities and responsibilities, should be able to make a personal contribution to putting an end to so many social injustices.”

But the Pope added that giving “bread to the hungry”, while required by justice, is not enough for human happiness.

“There is neither real promotion of the common good nor real human development when there is ignorance of the fundamental pillars that govern a nation, its non-material goods,” he said.

The Pope identified those goods as life, family, “integral education, which cannot be reduced to the mere transmission of information for the purposes of generating profit”, health, “including the spiritual dimension” of well-being, and security, which he said can be achieved “only by changing human hearts”.

Pope Francis suggested that he appreciated the ambitious anti-poverty policies of the government under President Dilma Rousseff and her predecessor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, commending the “efforts that Brazilian society is making to integrate all its members, including those who suffer most and are in greatest need, through the fight against hunger and deprivation”.

But using a term associated with the government’s policy of rehabilitating areas like Varginha by removing drug traffickers and other criminals, Pope Francis said: “No amount of ‘pacification’ will be able to last, nor will harmony and happiness be attained in a society that ignores, pushes to the margins or excludes a part of itself.”

  • Heynalbeads

    The holy father has hit the nail on the head, and answered the prayers of these needy people. However it will be important that proper fiscal oversight is put in place to ensure the money which will now flow from The Vatican bank to these needy folk is well controlled and aid money placed in the hands of those who need it the most.

  • JBQ21

    In the United States, I believe that you need to keep an eye on Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles. He has a degree in accounting. This is one of the great needs for the Church in America, fiscal responsibility. There are too many bishops “flying by the seat of their pants”. They have no idea what balancing a checkbook is all about and constantly “take the laity” to the cleaners to support their social justice topic de jour. Education discrepancies such as paying the superintendent of Catholic schools in Boston 350K per year to go with her 75K pension from the public schools is way over the top and horrifying to the laity who pay the bills.

  • Thomas Poovathinkal SSP

    Better start a Mammon worshipers’ Church and you will be the best representative head of it as Pope.

    Why not hand over Mammon related matters to the people? And the people will have more authentic leaders in the Church.

    Or you want Church leaders to keep themselves occupied with worshiping the Mammon to get a share of it?

    Thomas Poovathinkal SSP

  • Thomas Poovathinkal SSP

    “Turning to address a wider audience, the Pope urged the world’s wealthy, public officials

    Political leaders and party men, swindlers in Politics and Religion all over the world, bureaucrats and industrialists, listen when you die and cross over to the next world you will carry nothing with you BUT what you did in the spirit of true Charity.

    Why keep on investing only in a world that is PASSING AWAY? God keeps coming to you through the poor and the exploited.

    Thomas Poovathinkal SSP

  • Peter

    Unfortunately, here in the UK too, some clergy are more concerned with maintaining the material structure of their parish than with improving the spiritual condition of their congregation.

  • JBQ21

    Actually, I agree. However, let’s be practical. As someone with an accounting degree among others, you have to go by accepted accounting procedures. This includes having two separate individuals overseeing the books instead of the old style of the pastor overseeing everything. Recently, here in the Midwest, a lay individual “cooked the books” for 50K for 10 years. He received jail time and with the intervention of the good nuns never did a day. Have no fear, the nuns had taken a one million dollar bribe to stop their opposition to the building of a casino next door. Actually, it is all about original sin and common sense.

  • JBQ21

    For a good pastor, it takes a bit of both. We live in a material society where most raise children and have to provide for them. Let’s use some common sense and not let “etherialists” subvert the Church.

  • Thomas Poovathinkal SSP

    So good of you for not taking offense at what I said. However giving the money bag to the clergy is like ensuring more and more of Judas’. kind of men among those who claim to have “followed” Jesus the Lord. It is better that people do that job.

    In the world TO BE PRACTICAL means as moral or immoral as anybody else WHO MAKES A SUCCESS STORY(you spoke of the blessed and clever Nuns); for this should we keep on betraying Christ the Lord using the Clergy? WHY NOT ELDERLY RETIRED PEOPLE men or women or anybody.

    If you don’t want the Church (The Official one) to die we must use the standard of The Lord and be strict with it. Or else HIS LIGHT in us becomes DARKNESS.

    People are the best ones to challenge and expose the evils of the CLERGY.

    Just to refer to the arrogance and foolishness of the clergy who destroy the Church through their evil life, just read on (it is taken from one of the secular newspapers:

    Shirin Hasrat

    I love myself and I love the world God has created…..there
    may be some things/ people which I may not agree with but how would I
    appreciate the beautiful if there,was no ugly, or the good if there was no bad,
    or the honest if there were no dishonesty? Everything is created to take us
    forward to self realisation.

    Oswald Pereira

    Agree, Most important teaching is to love oneself and love
    the world that God has created. My mama told me that when I was a child. If she
    had taught me mythology instead of love, I don’t what would have happened to

    Shirin Hasrat

    It took me a long time getting there Oswald. The nuns
    conditioned us to believe that loving oneself is vanity and builds the ego. But
    then i learnt that how can I give that which i do not have.


    What a pity! Those NUNS never knew that God gave a
    commandment, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’. It was part of loving God

    Shirin Hasrat

    Loving the neighbour was fine…it was loving yourself which
    was vanity


    It (Loving oneself) is implied in the commandment.

    Oswald Pereirsa

    Shirin, priests and nuns interpret the Bible the way they
    think is best. In Christian schools, no two priest-principals think alike. I
    remember a priest, our school principal, Father Pascal, who told us boys who
    were in senior secondary that we had the choice of wearing ‘long pants’ instead
    of short pants for our school uniform, because “I don’t like to see your
    hairy legs and it would also be decent to cover your legs.” So, I was
    among the few boys who wore long pants. Incidentally, father Pascal used to
    wear ‘Beatle Boots,’ which was a rage those days.

    One day he wore a cassock, which had shrunk a bit. So as he got up from his
    chair to write on the blackboard, his ‘Beatle Boots’ were visible to us.
    “Boodha padri has worn Beatle Boots,” one boy said, loudly. Father
    Pascal turned around and said, “Raza my son, I’m a padri, but

    not a
    boodha, as I’m still 45 years young. I am wearing Beatle Boots because I love
    them. See, see,” he said, raising his cassock a bit higher to give us a
    full view of his boots. Then he laughed heartily and continued writing on the
    blackboard. Father Pascal knew each of us not only by our name but our voices
    as well.

    My favourite actor then was Dev Anand and I used to comb my hair in a well-made
    puff like he used to in his earlier movies.

    Then the school principal changed and we had Father Coutinho. I was in the
    tenth standard and used to sit on the first bench. He taught us English, like
    father Pascal used to. A few days after he joined, he came up to me, told me to
    stand up and ruffled my puff for a few painful minutes and flattened it. Then
    he asked me, why I was wearing long pants.

    “Only boys who are goondas wear long pants and roadside Romeos have puffs like
    this. Kneel down,” he ordered. He made me kneel down for the rest of the
    class, which was a good 35 minutes. Then as he left, he said, “Meet me
    with your mother this evening.”

    He told my mother: “Take care of your son. He is wearing long pants and
    has a puff like a roadside Romeo. Does he whistle at girls?”

    My mother said: “Father I have brought up my children well. The long pants
    were allowed by Father Pascal. I have full faith in my son and I know he is not
    a roadside Romeo. Sporting a puff or wearing long pants doesn’t make him a
    roadside Romeo or a goonda, just like you wearing a cassock or combing your
    hair flat doesn’t make you a holy man.”

    “Mrs Pereira, how dare you talk to a priest like that?” the priest
    said, angrily.

    “Father, how dare you talk to a mother like that. If you harass or bully
    my son again, I swear to God I’ll take up this case with the archbishop.”

    The priest was dumbfounded. He sat there silently and wouldn’t speak. Then
    after a long pause, he said, “You may go Mrs Pereira. I don’t know what to

    I continued wearing my long pants and proudly continued combing my hair in a

    I don’t think there was any ego or vanity in what I did.

    When priests or nuns behave dogmatically, we have every right to not listen to



    Oswald Prereira

    Thank you, Thomas

    Oswald Prereira

    “I don’t know why the nuns said this, because the Bible
    tells us to love your neighbour as yourself. Unless we love ourselves, we can’t
    love some one else.”

    Shirin Hasrat

    Lesson learnt…better late than never!

  • Thomas Poovathinkal SSP

    “…..improving the spiritual condition of their congregation.”

    For improving…….they themselves need to become spiritual. This is possible only when they give first place to following the Lord who called them. This doesn’t usually happen. they are comfortable with the system and the Powers. They get approval from below and much more follow in the temporal advantages.

    Thomas Poovathinkal SSP

  • JBQ21

    Mother Theresa would be as pretty good example to follow. She was Italian from Yugoslavia probably in a region bordering each other. She was beautiful as a young woman and took her cross to India.