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Pope Francis: The Faithful of the Shantytowns in Brazil Can Teach the World About Solidarity

By Deacon Keith Fournier
July 27th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Those who love the poor - like Jesus loved the poor- are given as a gift and instruction manual for the rest of us. They are a sign of the kingdom, making it present in their wake. This Pope Named Francis shows us that the faithful of the Shantytowns in Brazil can teach the world about solidarity. Have you ever considered the significance of the fact that the same Jesus who promised to be with us always also told us that the poor would be with us always? That is because they are connected.

RIO de JANEIRO (Varginha) , Brazil (Catholic Online) - Pope Francis visited a favelha or shantytown named Varginha, outside of Rio, on Thursday, july 25, 2013. He again revealed the compassionate love of Jesus Christ. He walked among the people in the pouring rain.

He engaged them in sincere conversation, affirmed them with fatherly affection, dispensed blessings, prayed spontaneously, kissed over 100 babies and hugged all who sought to embrace him as a brother and father in the faith. Through it all, he offered that smile which has come to characterize the tenderness and sincerity of his papal ministry.

I was moved by the accounts - and by the beauty of the photos. I thought of the words of Jesus contained in the Gospel (Matt. 25: 31-46): "I was hungry, and you gave me food; I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger and you welcomed me; I was naked and you gave me clothing; I was sick and you took care of me; I was in prison, and you visited me."

Remember the question posed by the Lord's disciples? "Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs." (Matthew 25.35-36) As I have aged I have come to see the many faces of poverty and I am learning to recognize the face of Jesus revealed in them all. However, this Pope named Francis saw Jesus in the faces of all whom he encountered in that Shantytown and his lesson drew me to repentance.

Have you ever considered the significance of the fact that the same Jesus who promised to be with us always also told us that the poor would be with us always? That is because they are connected. Indeed, in a sense, they are one and the same - in a way that is revealed with the eyes of living faith. "The poor you will always have with you; but you will not always have me" (Jesus, Matthew 26:11) "And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age." (Jesus, Matthew 28:20)

The face of Jesus is revealed in the face of the poor. The word of Jesus is spoken through the poor, for those who cultivate the ears to hear Him. The cry of Jesus is heard in the cry of the poor, at least for those who stop to listen to them, and receive them as a gift, as Francis showed us all. That is the deeper meaning behind the sobering scene recounting the last judgment recorded by the Evangelist Matthew in the 25th Chapter of his Gospel:

"Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.'

"Then the righteous will answer him and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?'And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.'"

Those who love the poor - like Jesus loved the poor- are given as a gift and instruction manual for the rest of us. They are a sign of the kingdom, making it present in their wake. This Pope Named Francis shows us that the faithful of the Shantytowns in Brazil can teach the world about solidarity. 

Pope Francis gave a beautiful message which we offer in full below:

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From Pope Francis
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

It is wonderful to be here with you! From the start, my wish in planning this visit to Brazil was to be able to visit every district throughout the nation. I would have liked to knock on every door, to say "good morning", to ask for a glass of cold water, to take a cafezinho, to speak as one would to family friends, to listen to each person pouring out his or her heart - parents, children, grandparents ... But Brazil is so vast! It is impossible to knock on every door! So I chose to come here, to visit your community, which today stands for every district in Brazil. How wonderful it is to be welcomed with such love, generosity, and joy! One need only look at the way you have decorated the streets of the community; this is a further mark of affection, it comes from your heart, from the heart of all Brazilians in festive mood. Many thanks to each of you for this kind welcome! And I thank Archbishop Orani Tempesta as well as Rangler and Joana for their kind words.

1. From the moment I first set foot on Brazilian soil, right up to this meeting here with you, I have been made to feel welcome. And it is important to be able to make people welcome; this is something even more beautiful than any kind of ornament or decoration. I say this because 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. I am well aware that when someone needing food knocks at your door, you always find a way of sharing food; as the proverb says, one can always "add more water to the beans"! And you do so with love, demonstrating that true riches consist not in material things, but in the heart!

And the Brazilian people, particularly the humblest among you, can offer the world a valuable lesson in solidarity, a word that is too often forgotten or silenced, because it is uncomfortable. 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! No one can remain insensitive to the inequalities that persist in the world! 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. The culture of selfishness and individualism that often prevails in our society is not what builds up and leads to a more habitable world: it is the culture of solidarity that does so, seeing others not as rivals or statistics, but brothers and sisters.

I would like to encourage 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. 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. A society of that kind simply impoverishes itself, it loses something essential. Let us always remember this: only when we are able to share do we become truly rich; everything that is shared is multiplied! 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!

2. I would also like to tell you that the Church, the "advocate of justice and defender of the poor in the face of intolerable social and economic inequalities which cry to heaven" (Aparecida Document, 395), wishes to offer her support for every initiative that can signify genuine development for every person and for the whole person. Dear friends, 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. 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.

I would like to add one final point. Here, as in the whole of Brazil, there are many young people. Dear young friends, you have a particular sensitivity towards injustice, but you are often disappointed by facts that speak of corruption on the part of people who put their own interests before the common good. To you and to all, I repeat: never yield to discouragement, do not lose trust, do not allow your hope to be extinguished. Situations can change, people can change. Be the first to seek to bring good, do not grow accustomed to evil, but defeat it. The Church is with you, bringing you the precious good of faith, bringing Jesus Christ, who "came that they may have life and have it abundantly" (Jn 10:10).

Today, to all of you, especially to the residents of this Community of Varginha, I say: you are not alone, the Church is with you, the Pope is with you. I carry each of you in my heart and I make my own the intentions that you carry deep within you: thanksgiving for joys, pleas for help in times of difficulty, a desire for consolation in times of grief and suffering. I entrust all this to the intercession of Our Lady of Aparecida, Mother of all the poor of Brazil, and with great affection I impart my blessing.

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