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‘The Pope of the slum’: profile of slum parish in Buenos Aires

April 08, 2013

John Allen has written a profile of the Parish of Virgin of Caacupé, located in a drug-infested slum in Buenos Aires. Parish ministries include two schools, a soup kitchen, radio station, newspaper, drug-recovery programs, and 15 chapels where priests offer Mass and hear confessions. A poster inside the parish describes Pope Francis as “the Pope of the slum.”

The future Pope’s “option for places such as this wasn’t notional, a matter of a few lines in a pastoral plan,” writes Allen. “It took flesh and blood in his penchant for walking the streets, talking to the people, leading them in worship and standing with them when times were tough.”

“When he would visit here, he’d take the bus and then he’d just come walking around the corner, like a normal guy,” said Father Juan Isasmendia, a priest of the parish. “I’d say that over the 15 years he’s been walking down the streets here, at least half of the people have met him at some time and have a picture with him, meaning at least 25,000 people in this [slum] alone,” he said.

“He came for all the big festivals and he did all the confirmations,” he said. “One time we had almost 400 people to be confirmed, and he did them all personally on one day. It took three and a half hours, maybe four, and he did it all.”

“He was always concerned that future priests stay close to the lives of real people, not so much that they be concerned about the Church as a structure,” he added. “It wasn’t easy, because many times formation programs encourage priests to separate themselves from other people, but that’s not the kind of priest Bergoglio wanted.”


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