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July 25th, 2013
01:12 PM ET

'Slum pope' visits Brazil's poor

By Eric Marrapodi, Shasta Darlington and Miguel Marquez, CNN
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Rio de Janeiro (CNN) - Pope Francis visited one of Rio de Janeiro's most dangerous and impoverished neighborhoods Thursday, saying that no society pushing the poor to the margins can succeed.

"I say: You are not alone; the church is with you; the pope is with you," Francis told residents of the notorious Varginha favela, or slum.

"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."

Francis, whose concern for the poor has earned him the nickname the "slum pope" in Latin America, is in Brazil through Sunday for World Youth Day, a weeklong Catholic event.

Huge crowds have gathered wherever Francis goes, providing an early indicator of the new pope's immense popularity during his first overseas trip as leader of the Roman Catholic Church.

On Wednesday, Francis visited a shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary and what he called "a shrine to suffering," a Rio hospital that treats drug addicts.

Francis traveled to Varginha on Thursday to deliver a speech on poverty, hope and social justice, steady themes thus far in his young papacy.

"Shortly after his election to the papacy, Pope Francis called for a 'church for the poor,' " said the Rev. Thomas Rosica, a Canadian priest who assists the Vatican communications department.  "His visit today ... offers us a unique opportunity to see the Bishop of Rome giving flesh and blood to those words."

The pope was driven to the favela in the open-air "popemobile," occasionally reaching out to touch the crowds. Women along the route thrust infants over the barricades for the pope to bless.

Volunteers linked arms to hold the crowd back in spots without barricades. Hundreds of military and police lined the route, and more than a dozen motorcycle officers followed.

[cnnvideo url='http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/world/2013/07/25/nr-marquez-pope-walks-brazil-soccer-stadium.cnn' inline='true']

Brazilian officials have voiced concern about the pope's security, upgrading it Wednesday to "high risk" after crowds swarmed a car carrying the pope shortly after his arrival two days earlier.

Security raised to 'high risk' for pope in Brazil

Varginha is deemed "occupied" by the Brazilian government after police took over the community last year, forcing out drug gangs who had controlled it for decades. Despite the heavy police presence, locals say the area remains dangerous after dark.

In Varginha, Francis stopped at a small stone Catholic chapel called San Girolamo Emiliani, where he said a short silent prayer, blessed a new altar and presented the community with a new chalice.

Outside, a group of children presented the pontiff with a soccer scarf from his favorite Argentine club.

From the chapel, he walked in the rain into a house and then to a soccer stadium, weaving from one side of the road to the other and greeting onlookers with a broad smile splashed across his face.

At the soccer stadium, a crowd of 3,000 gathered, including Marilene da Luz, a retired cashier who jumped up and down to the music playing.

“He’s such a humble man, it makes sense that he comes to the favelas; this is where the humble people are,” da Luz said.

Speaking in Portuguese, the pope told the rain-soaked capacity crowd he wanted to visit every house in Brazil and have a small coffee with people. But “no cachaca,” he joked, referring to the strong Brazilian liquor popular with the poor.

Francis addressed the crowd in plain language, telling them that even the poor have much  to offer.

"You can offer the world a valuable lesson in solidarity, a word that is too often forgotten or silenced, because it is uncomfortable,” the pope said.

Francis' visit comes after a month of antigovernment protests in Brazil that often turned violent. Protesters have cited their anger over corruption and lack of government services.

At Varginha, the pope seemed to speak directly to those concerns and was met with cheers.

"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," he said.

"To you and to all, I repeat: Never yield to discouragement; do not lose trust; do not allow your hope to be extinguished."

Pope Francis embarks on historic trip to Brazil

“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,” he said.

“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!”

The pope stressed that a nation must be built on the fundamentals of life, family, education, health and security.

"Let us always remember this: Only when we are able to share do we become truly rich," he told the large crowd, including slum residents, gathered in the soccer stadium. "Everything that is shared is multiplied!"

Even in Varginha, a neighborhood where poverty, drugs and violence had run rampant, hope must continue, he said.

“Situations can change; people can change. Be the first to seek to bring good; do not grow accustomed to evil but defeat it.”

Later Thursday, the pope was to lead a religious service on Copacabana Beach, with upward of 1 million Catholics expected to attend.

CNN’s Barbara Arvanitidis, Hada Messia and Daniel Burke contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Brazil • Catholic Church • Economy • Pope Francis • Poverty

soundoff (370 Responses)
  1. Daniel

    I do not identify with any religion, however I do believe this Pope is a big step in the right direction for the Catholic Church. They have a lot of work to do, a lot of wrongs to right, and serious changes to make but this pope leads by example, and for that I can't fault him.

    Obviously I don't agree with all of his views but I think he's proving himself to be one of the greater popes.

    July 25, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
    • Opus

      NOTHING can help the church of Satan. If they pope really cared about the poor he would liquidate the millions in riches hidden in the Vatican and promptly distribute to the needy.

      July 25, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
      • neoritter

        Hidden? The only thing hidden in the Vatican are some old pieces of paper.

        July 25, 2013 at 5:34 pm |
    • holdingbreathmemoir

      I was raised as a Catholic, but I haven't considered myself a Christian of any kind for many years. Generally, I have looked at mental pictures of Jesus placed side-by side in my mind with those of the Vatican, the "Pope-mobile", and all the gaudy, expensive trappings of Catholicism and wondered how anyone could see any resemblance. Given what Jesus taught, it seemed an abomination to me. However, I have to agree with others here who say that Francis, at least so far, seems to remarkably true to Jesus' vision, and I'm impressed. I will never be a Christian again, but I give the new Pope a lot of credit, and wish him well.

      July 25, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
      • holdingbreathmemoir

        Opus, I wholeheartedly agree with your suggestion that he "liquidate the millions in riches hidden in the Vatican and promptly distribute to the needy," to seal the deal. 🙂

        July 25, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
    • nelson jones

      Daniel:

      This Pope is no different than all the others, except that he is more polished, so he can look better than the others. Francis is first and foremost, all about the image of the CULT. His mission is to attempt to soften the scandals of previous Popes and the RCC,and to re-cast the CULT as a truly caring organization, so non-critical thinkers will embrace his false humility, and return to the Roman CULT fold.

      July 25, 2013 at 8:39 pm |
  2. prophet

    most people just go to church to pretend that thye are generous, what hypocrites.

    July 25, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
    • bostontola

      troll

      July 25, 2013 at 3:51 pm |
    • Puckles

      Almost all religious people are hypocrites as are their "leaders."

      July 25, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
      • lionlylamb

        I see... A hypocrite calling others being hypocritical is asinine hypocrisy at its worst...

        July 25, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
  3. liberal disease

    send him too Detroit next, if you want to see the poor and slums

    July 25, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
    • Dippy

      To, not too.

      July 25, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
  4. prophet

    we give half our wealth to those that need it and we support the abused. We do the opposite of the catholic clergy. Those liars keeping the help they should give to those that should have the help. God gives us the money but the catholics have it all in the vatican.

    July 25, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
    • Athy

      God gives you the money? How does he print it?

      July 25, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
    • blackrobe

      Look at the 2013 list of top-rated charities (the ones that give the most money to their ministries vs. those who take a huge chunk of the donations for "administrative fees") - It's a mixed bag, but the ones that tend to do the best are the Catholic Charities (Jesuit Refugee Services gives ~97% of its donations directly to the poor) while the bottom 20 are filled with religious, non-Catholic charities like "Victorious Christian Living International" and the "Gospel to the Unreached Millions" Which give 57.2% and 56.9% of their donations to the poor, keeping the rest for administrative costs.

      You may hate the Catholic Church, but the numbers don't support your assertion that they are hording money.

      July 25, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
  5. Your Saviour Yeshua Mashiach

    Please learn to write better.

    July 25, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
  6. prophet

    The prayer group that i belong to has changed the world because Our Leader is Our Saviour Yeshua Mashiach and He has Saved many but the christians don't do what He has asekd and this is why we are seeing the poor beause the christians are selective in who they give to.

    July 25, 2013 at 3:39 pm |
    • bostontola

      troll

      July 25, 2013 at 3:51 pm |
      • nelson jones

        bostontola = King of Trolls.

        July 25, 2013 at 8:45 pm |
  7. prophet

    St Paul said that people should avoid any religion that does not allow its leaders to get married. And yet the catholics say that thye follow the bible.

    July 25, 2013 at 3:34 pm |
  8. Christpuncher

    Oh please more lip service, that is all religion is good for, oh and taking others peoples money (after taking a slice for themselves) some of it might go to needy people. After all, those staues don't buy themselves.
    Anyway...
    BOW!!!!
    YIELD!!!!
    KNEEL!!!!
    AND GIVE ME YOUR MONEY, ERR UMM, I MEAN DONATIONS!!!

    July 25, 2013 at 3:32 pm |
  9. prophet

    anyone who supports the catholics is supporting the catholics about child abuse.

    July 25, 2013 at 3:31 pm |
    • bostontola

      Does that mean that anyone who supports the United States of America supports spying on it's own citizens? You don't understand the rudiments of logic.

      July 25, 2013 at 3:34 pm |
    • Michael

      I don't believe in the church, I believe in the teachings of my Savior.

      July 25, 2013 at 3:34 pm |
      • flying spaghetti monster

        There is no savior.

        July 25, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
  10. prophet

    the opinions of those on here who think that the catholic clergy seem okay should spend some time with those abused by the catholics, not just the clergy but also the everyday catholics, this isn't limited just to the catholic clergy, they needed help to do what they did.

    July 25, 2013 at 3:27 pm |
    • bostontola

      Show me the large insti.tution that has never had a bad person infiltrate it. Of course there have been really bad priests and the church handled it abhorrently. But they do good also. What has your church/synagogue done that moved the needle on global good?

      July 25, 2013 at 3:32 pm |
  11. michael

    Pray to the poor and make no comment about the gays being killed in Cameroon or Russia and the laws to outlaw their existence.

    July 25, 2013 at 3:25 pm |
  12. bostontola

    I'm an atheist but I like this pope. He seems sincere in his purpose to reform the church in ways that look better to me. He has a track record of being humble and caring about poor people. I think it was a brilliant marketing move to elect this guy given the huge African and Asian "soul market" that is up for grabs.

    July 25, 2013 at 3:22 pm |
    • Michael

      I'm a Christian and I respect your beliefs or non-beliefs. I just wanted to say thank you for being respectful and not bashing people who believe like most other people do on this forum 🙂

      July 25, 2013 at 3:26 pm |
    • nelson jones

      bostontola:

      You claiming to be an Atheist... I call B.S.

      July 25, 2013 at 8:59 pm |
      • jazzguitarman

        Why BS? This pope may indeed have a good heart. The fact that the RCC supports policies that are harmful to the poor means that the pope is misguided but not that he really doesn't care.

        July 25, 2013 at 9:07 pm |
  13. michael

    Yes, poor people, he can carry you in his heart. Can he do anything to get you a bite to eat ?

    July 25, 2013 at 3:22 pm |
    • Jorge Posada

      Yes he can. Catholic charities help feed a lot of people.

      July 25, 2013 at 3:32 pm |
      • Csan

        more than 25% of all the worlds health care and food banks are directly supplied by the Catholic Church, but yeah, they are extremely evil.

        July 25, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
    • sst

      that 50+ million used to bring him there sure could have fed a lot of people. sure the people in that favela had that on their minds.

      July 25, 2013 at 3:51 pm |
  14. prophet

    education for the chrstians – did you know that when Our Saviour came He abolished the clergy system. So all those that grew up around priests were being deceived by them regardless of how they were pretending. Most of them are liars and chaet people and abuse children, i know this because i too was raised by catholics.

    July 25, 2013 at 3:22 pm |
    • bostontola

      No way you really think this stuff, you're trollin' aren't you?

      July 25, 2013 at 3:25 pm |
  15. Brad

    Sheesh, Mr. Pope, would it really be so difficult to focus on the positive once in a while?

    July 25, 2013 at 3:17 pm |
  16. prophet

    but really its not just the vatican thats the hypocrite but all those other catholics that agree with what the vatican tries to tell people.

    July 25, 2013 at 3:16 pm |
  17. prophet

    vatican to make child abuse cover up a saint

    July 25, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
    • Julie

      Dear Prophet,
      You seem like you live with a lot of anger towards Catholics and the church? Just curious, where does this stem from? Just know, that the reason people say their lives flash before them before they die, is because they actually do.... Our lives are but an instant in the grand scheme of things. I will pray that you find peace in your life.

      July 25, 2013 at 3:30 pm |
  18. Michael

    Good for him. He seems like a very nice man. Very humble despite his position. I bet after this trip though he'll be too pooped to pope.

    July 25, 2013 at 3:12 pm |
  19. prophet

    would you allow your child near the catholic clergy, i wouldn't. These poor people who believe in the catholics. did you know that the brazil version of catholism is not the same as the vatican catholicism.

    July 25, 2013 at 3:11 pm |
    • Michael

      I've spent my entire childhood around Catholic priests and they've nothing but kind and caring to me.

      July 25, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
      • SeattleBeliever

        Same here!!!! These people are bigots like the ones who think every black teenage boy is a criminal because that's what they hear on the news. Prophet, you're no prophet except of lies.

        July 25, 2013 at 3:17 pm |
        • Michael

          I think some people just come on here just to start trouble. Probably because they have nothing better to do.

          July 25, 2013 at 3:30 pm |
      • michael

        Good for you. I've been touched and in not a good way !

        July 25, 2013 at 3:23 pm |
    • BS calling you out

      I have spent my entire youth around Catholic priest in one form another and I have had nothing but positive experiences. Although I am not deeply religious now I still respect the good the Priests I knew and the ones I do not do out there. Yes there are/were some terrible acts being committed by Priests, but lets not throw the baby out with the bath water.

      July 25, 2013 at 3:23 pm |
    • Manoel

      Prophet, you are wrong.

      Our Church is exactly the same as in Rome.

      July 25, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
  20. prophet

    Our Saviour told whoever Believes in Him to share out half their wealth with the poor. Has the vatican done that. Hypocrites and those chrsitians that believe in the catholiic clergy also don;t share out half their welath and thats why they are hypocrites as well as the catholic clergy

    July 25, 2013 at 3:02 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.