Pope's Rio Trip to Include a Stop at One of Poorest Favelas

Parish Priest Says Pontiff Will See the Reality of the Community

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, (Zenit.org) H. Sergio Mora | 1568 hits

Pope Francis’ program during the 2013 Rio World Youth Day reportedly will include a visit to the parish of Varginha, located in the favela of Manguinhos, one of the poorest of Rio. While there the Holy Father will lead a prayer in the parish of Saint Jerome Emilian, where he will bless the new altar. 

He will also spend some time talking with the leaders of the community and its inhabitants. He will walk on a street of Varginha to a soccer field where there will be a stage from which he will address a few words to the slum-dwellers. There will not be any special security fences, and if the Pope so wishes, he will be able to go into some of the homes. 

The visit is planned for July 25 in the morning. This was made known on Saturday, May 18, by Archbishop Orani João Tempesta of Rio de Janeiro, who presided over a Mass at the parish there. 

“While José Carlos Chagas street, where the Pope will walk, is transformed into a 'red carpet,' with new asphalt and drains, the neighboring favelas await a grace from the public power,” states a local newspaper with the headline “Miracle of the Pope in Manguinhos.” 

Inés San Martín, director of the WYD international press, told ZENIT that “the street on which the Pope will walk is yet to be confirmed. We haven’t issued any communique in this respect, but it is true that they have already begun work in Manguinhos, where it is to be supposed the Holy Father will pass." 

She added that during his stay in Rio the Pope will also inaugurate a wing of Saint Francis Hospital, in the Tijuca neighborhood, for treatment of drug addicts. 

“It is a joy and a responsibility to show how much the Church is alive and working silently in the communities, so that we can fulfill the mission that the Lord entrusted to us,” said the local parish priest, Father Marcio Queiroz, in statements published on the WYD Web page. 

He pointed out that the community will show the Pope the reality: “It makes no sense to create some sort of makeup. The simplicity you are seeing is the one we are going to show him. This is the face of this parish.”

The archbishop of Rio said that the most important thing will be the social legacy that will remain for the people. The process of selection of the community was complex, explained Archbishop Tempesta. The ministry team of the favelas presented a list of more than 750 parishes. Then the local WYD organizing committee, the government of Rio and the Vatican looked for a place that is at peace, which was not visited by John Paul II.

“It would be very good if the Pope could go to all the favelas. What is being done awakens in people the desire to improve their life," the prelate said.

The pacified favelas are the ones where drug trafficking has been contained, with a heavy intervention of the Brazilian army and police, which included tanks. Today the police’s “pacification units” patrol 13 favelas some of which were impenetrable, and they are part of a national security plan.

The chapel of Saint Jerome Emilian stemmed from a desire of the Somaschi Fathers to evangelize a needy community, from the social and spiritual point of view. The priests of the Order of Saint Jerome Emilian arrived from Italy on mission to build a House of the Order. 

Passing through the Varginha favela they found a desire for God in its dwellers. They took part in the Masses of another community, Saint Daniel, also located in Manguinhos. It was then that the Somascchi Fathers built the church, which was inaugurated in 1971, with the presence of the then archbishop of Rio de Janeiro, Father Eugenio Salles.

On her visit to Brazil in 1972, Mother Teresa walked through the streets of the community and visited some houses. After that, the community opened a space so that the Missionaries of Charity could carry out their works, such as the catechesis of children and visits to families.