I am totally loving Pope Francis so far. I am not Catholic. I am sure we disagree on quite a few social and theological matters. Heck, I seem to disagree with pretty much everyone on a range of things these days.
The Washington Post reported the following about his current visit to Rio:
Francis has become known as the “slum pope,” not just because of his advocacy for the downtrodden during his four months as pontiff but also because of his fearlessness in entering the “misery villages,” as shantytowns are known, in his native Buenos Aires. As archbishop of that city, he sent priests into the neighborhoods, and those who have closely followed his career say he allowed them to engage in the kind of activism that some in the Vatican hierarchy, most prominently his predecessor as pope, did not openly support.
Francis’s larger plan is to strengthen the church in Brazil, where millions have migrated from Catholicism to evangelicalism in recent years, by bolstering support for the poor. A poll published Sunday in the Sao Paulo newspaper Folha was sobering for the Brazilian church hierarchy and the Vatican: Only 57 percent of Brazilians age 16 or older identify as Catholic, down from well over 90 percent in the 1960s.Pope Francis warmed the hearts of residents in one of Brazil’s poorest neighborhoods Thursday. Known as a “favela,” this shantytown was once one of Brazil’s most dangerous, plagued with drugs, violence and poverty.
In his remarks in Varginha, the pope criticized the “culture of selfishness and individualism,” spoke of how the wealthy need to do more to end social injustice and told residents to “never yield to discouragement” because of corruption.
He also praised the poor for the solidarity they show toward one another, saying such gestures can be a “great lesson for the world.”
And he stressed to the people of Varginha that he is on their side.
“The church offers its collaboration on all initiatives that lead to the development of all people,” he said. “The church is with you. The pope is with you.”
Hours later, speaking under a rainy sky in Copacabana, the pope’s message to the faithful was less political and more centered on the importance of believing in Jesus. “He is a friend who does not defraud,” the pope said.
Maybe we should call him the “slum pope.” I surely need to be more of a slum blogger and slum teacher.