He chose one of the world’s most forgotten corners in which to urge the powerful of this earth to show solidarity and social justice: one of the peripheries to which he has been directing the Church’s attention since the beginning of his pontificate. On Thursday morning, 25 July, the fourth day of his journey in Brazil, Pope Francis went to the favela of Varginha. Here he met the inhabitants, praying in their church, visiting a family and speaking in the soccer field where Jairzinho, a former glory of Brazilian association football, was training about 70 children, boys from the ages of 6 to 17, to keep them away from the dangers of street life. Between 1,000 and 3,000 people live in Varginha. In fact it is impossible to keep track of the inhabitants of this conglomeration of poor huts, often built from refuse, that have mushroomed and are spreading all the time. Heaps of panels and bricks piled up with no sewers, no asphalt roads, no electricity. Varginha was born like this in the 1940s from one day to the next, when immigrants and evacuees from the whole of Brazil built their “houses on piles” here, in a rubbish dump wedged between a road with very heavy traffic and a former oil refinery.
The Pope was met on his arrival by Fr Márcio Queiroz, in charge of the local San Girolamo Emiliani Chapel which belongs to the Parish of Nossa Senhora do Bonsucesso de Inhaúma. Fr Quiroz is also director of communications for the wyd. Having walked a brief stretch picking his way between puddles and mud, Pope Francis entered the home of Manoel José and Maria Luisa da Penha, at no. 81. The yellow painted building had been decorated with coloured balloons and a photograph of the illustrious guest. Older writings, however, attest to the simple faith of the family that owns it, capable of making room even for the relatives and friends who turned up unexpectedly when they learned that the Pope was to visit. Nor did he disappoint them. He stayed for about ten minutes, in a very small space of no more than 20 m2, talking to everyone, taking the little ones in his arms and blessing them, posing for a souvenir photo, as well as, lastly, reciting the Our Father and the Hail Mary.
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