Pope scolds rich, demands social justice in visit to Brazil slum

Thu Jul 25, 2013 5:31pm EDT
 
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By Philip Pullella and Anthony Boadle

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Pope Francis on Thursday issued the first social manifesto of his young pontificate, telling slum dwellers in Brazil that the world's rich must do much more to wipe out vast inequalities between the haves and the have-nots.

The pope also urged Brazil's youth, who have taken part in recent protests showing discontent with the status quo, to keep alive their "sensitivity towards injustice" and be a catalyst in the fight against corruption.

The first Latin American pope, who has rallied the Church on behalf of the poor and who lives more austerely than his predecessors, called for a "culture of solidarity" to replace the "selfishness and individualism" prevailing in modern society.

"No one can remain insensitive to the inequalities that persist in the world," he told residents of Manguinhos, a sprawling shantytown, or favela, of ramshackle brick dwellings that until recently was overrun by violence and controlled by drug lords.

His speech, under rains that have persisted throughout most of his first trip abroad as pope, came halfway through a week-long visit around World Youth Day, a gathering of young Catholics that is expected to attract more than a million faithful to Rio de Janeiro and nearby sites.

Despite the downpours and unusually chilly weather, tens of thousands of rapturous Brazilians and foreign visitors have turned out to welcome the pope. The World Youth Day events are an effort by the Vatican to inspire Catholics at a time when rival denominations, secularism and sexual and financial scandals continue to lead some to abandon the Church.

Brazil, home to the world's biggest population of Catholics with over 120 million faithful, is an apt locale for the pope to remind the world of inequality. A recent decade of economic growth in the country raised incomes for many, but tens of millions of Brazilians still live in poverty or with little more than the basics to get by.

In Manguinhos, Francis, an Argentine known for frequent outings into the slums near Buenos Aires even as a cardinal, smiled and visibly enjoyed the chaotic close contact allowed with residents there. He called for more efforts to end poverty and said authorities must do more than just crack down on the drug trade to ensure opportunities for those at the bottom of the economic ladder.   Continued...

 
Catholic faithful are reflected on the windows of a hotel as they crowd the streets awaiting for the arrival of Pope Francis at Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, July 25, 2013. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes