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The poor beside the powerful

· A presence desired by the Pope ·

A place had been reserved for them next to the powerful of this earth. Indeed they were even closer to the altar, closer to Pope Francis who wanted them beside him on the day on which his Petrine ministry began.

Sergio Sanchez, a waste paper collector, dressed in a blue and green tracksuit that he uses when he goes out collecting material to be recycled that has been discarded by people on the streets of Buenos Aires; José María del Corral, Director of the programme Escuela de vecinos and Buenos Aires ciudad educativa promoted in Buenos Aires while Bergoglio was Archbishop; and Sr Ana Rosa Sivori, a religious and a Daughter of Our Lady Help of Christians who for 46 years has been a missionary in Thailand where she helps children to grow up and trains them to be good Christians and citizens: three simple, ordinary people who experienced this day as a great joy, one of the few, Sanchez was to say, in a life of hardship.

They were not wearing their Sunday best but the clothes they wear every day in their daily routine. Between the sister and the Pope, there is a special link of kinship: they are first cousins once removed.

She has carried out her mission in North East Thailand, after also spending time in Bangkok, the capital. In two years she will celebrate the 50th anniversary of her religious profession. “The Pope did not telephone me himself”, she said, “but he knows that I am here. I am sure he will ask me what I am doing here. He always does!”.

Sergio Sánchez arrived directly from Buenos Aires, representing the waste paper collectors gathered in the Movimiento trabajadores excluidos (Mte). He met the Pope about five years ago when the struggle for the recognition of the workers' dignity was at its height. “The only one we found on our side”, he told us, “was Fr Bergoglio. He too was fighting the various forms of slavery to which workers were subjected, fighting the trade in human beings used as on a production line”.

José María del Corral, however, is linked to Pope Francis by two projects – which he directs – dedicated to the education of youth in the Argentine capital. He explained to us that the Escuela de vecinos was founded 12 years ago on an impulse of Cardinal Bergaglio, who “considered that young people were not indifferent to what was happening around them, indeed, that they ought to take part as neighbours, that is, as citizens”. So it was that “the first interreligious group” was organized “It consisted of young men and women from Catholic, Evangelical and Jewish  secondary schools. They would discuss common problems such as drugs, violence, illegality, insecurity, and learned to understand that together they would be able to do something useful”.  Their different religious affiliation did not frighten them; indeed, they found that it was their very “difference that was most

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St. Peter’s Square

Sept. 22, 2019

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