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Energized by visit to Rio slum, Pope Francis pleads for the poor

Catholic World News - July 25, 2013

"The measure of the greatness of a society is found in the way it treats those most in need, those who have nothing apart from their poverty,” Pope Francis said during a July 25 visit a slum in Rio de Janeiro.

Pope Francis was known for his devotion to the poor in the slums of Buenos Aires while he was archbishop there. On this visit to the Manquihos favela in Rio, he was clearly delighted to spend time with the residents, and they were at least equally excited to greet the Pontiff.

The Pope remarked that everywhere in Brazil, he has been “welcomed with such love, generosity, and joy.” Speaking with emotion about his wish to meet with the people, he lamented: “It is impossible to knock on every door!” Still he emphasized how much he enjoyed greeting the people.

The people of Brazil, “particularly the humblest among you, can offer the world a valuable lesson in solidarity,” the Pope said. He observed that the people of the favelas are ready to share their own scant resources with those in greater need. He remarked that “when we are generous in welcoming people and sharing something with them – some food, a place in our homes, our time – not only do we no longer remain poor: we are enriched.” The Pope continued:

I would like to make an appeal to those in possession of greater resources, to public authorities and to all people of good will who are working for social justice: never tire of working for a more just world, marked by greater solidarity!

“The culture of selfishness and individualism that often prevails in our society is not what builds up and leads to a more habitable world,” the Pontiff said. “It is the culture of solidarity that does so, seeing others not as rivals or statistics, but brothers and sisters.”

Commenting on the political and social changes that are sweeping Brazil, the Pope argued that if a sense of solidarity is lacking, the community cannot be stable and secure. He said: “No amount of ‘peace-building’ 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.”

While emphasizing the need to help the poor, Pope Francis made it equally clear that this help should provide for more than only material needs. “Dear friends,” he said, “it is certainly necessary to give bread to the hungry – this is an act of justice. But there is also a deeper hunger, the hunger for a happiness that only God can satisfy.” The Pontiff went on:

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: life, which is a gift of God, a value always to be protected and promoted; the family, the foundation of coexistence and a remedy against social fragmentation; integral education, which cannot be reduced to the mere transmission of information for purposes of generating profit; health, which must seek the integral well-being of the person, including the spiritual dimension, essential for human balance and healthy coexistence; security, in the conviction that violence can be overcome only by changing human hearts.

The Pope said that he placed great confidence in young people, with their “particular sensitivity toward injustice,” to root out corruption and to build up a sense of solidarity.

The Pope closed his remarks by assuring the people of the favela that “you are not alone. The Church is with you. The Pope is with you.”

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  • Posted by: unum - Jul. 26, 2013 8:35 AM ET USA

    Pope Francis speaks, "While emphasizing the need to help the poor, Pope Francis made it equally clear that this help should provide for more than only material needs. “Dear friends,” he said, “it is certainly necessary to give bread to the hungry – this is an act of justice. But there is also a deeper hunger, the hunger for a happiness that only God can satisfy.” I think he is speakimg of compassion, love and jobs, not Obama-style handouts!

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