Vatican City, 26 July 2013 (VIS) – Following this morning's Mass at the Sumare residence, the Pope visited the town hall at 9.45 a.m. local time. On the balcony of the central hall, the major of Rio de Janeiro, Eduardo Paes, consigned the keys to the city to Pope Francesco. From there, they proceeded to the gardens where the Holy Father blessed the flags for the Olympic and Paralympic Games and greeted several young athletes representing a variety of different sports. As well as the 2014 World Cup, Brazil will host the 31st Olympic Games in 2016, the first to be held in South America.
At 10 a.m., the Pope travelled by car to the community of Varginha, Manguinhos, a distance of eighteen kilometres. This community forms part of one of the largest favelas in the northern part of the city, which has been pacified by local police. The term “favela” comes from “faveila” or mandioca brava, a rough wild leguminous plant that grows as a weed in several regions of Brazil. It is said that in November 1897, soldiers who had won the War of Canudos in Bahia landed in Rio because the government had promised them homes there. Since the ensuing bureaucracy was endless, they occupied the Gamboa hill, built their huts there, and called the place Morro da Favela.
The Holy Father arrived at 11 a.m., and was received by the parish priest, the episcopal vicar and the superior of the Sisters of Charity. He then proceeded to the little church of St. Jerome Emiliani and after a moment of prayer, went on foot to the football field where the community awaited him. He visited a family on the way and, before his address, greeted a local couple, Rangler and Joana.
Francis confessed that his wish, when planning his trip to Brazil, was to visit all the nation's neighbourhoods, but the vastness of the country made this impossible so he had to choose just one. “It is wonderful to be here with you! I would have liked to knock on every door, to say 'good morning', to ask for a glass of cold water, to take a cafezinho – not a glass of grappa! - to speak as one would to family friends, to listen to each person pouring out his or her heart – parents, children, grandparents ... But Brazil is so vast! It is impossible to knock on every door!” Pope Francis again thanked all Brazilians for welcoming him with “such love, generosity, and joy”, for the street decorations, “a further mark of affection … from your heart,
He remarked that when we are “generous in welcoming people and sharing something with them … not only do we no longer remain poor: we are enriched”, and mentioned the Brazilian proverb, “one can always “add more water to the beans”.
“The Brazilian people”, he continued, “particularly the humblest among you, can offer the world a valuable lesson in solidarity; this word solidarity is too often forgotten or silenced, because it is uncomfortable”. The Pope appealed “to those in possession of greater resources, to public authorities and to all people of good will who are working for social justice: never tire of working for a more just world, marked by greater solidarity! No one can remain insensitive to the inequalities that persist in the world! Everybody, according to his or her particular opportunities and responsibilities, should be able to make a personal contribution to putting an end to so many social injustices. The culture of selfishness and individualism that often prevails in our society is not, I repeat not, what builds up and leads to a more habitable world: rather, it is the culture of solidarity that does so; the culture of solidarity means seeing others not as rivals or statistics, but brothers and sisters. And we are all brothers and sisters”.
The Pope expressed his encouragement of the efforts Brazilian society is making to integrate all its members, and emphasised that “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. A society of that kind simply impoverishes itself, it loses something essential. We must never, never allow the throwaway culture to enter our hearts! We must never allow the throwaway culture to enter our hearts, because we are brothers and sisters. No one is disposable! Let us always remember this: only when we are able to share do we become truly rich; everything that is shared is multiplied! Think of the multiplication of the loaves by Jesus! 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 affirmed that “the Church wishes to offer her support for every initiative that can signify genuine development for every person and for the whole person” and remarked that “there is also a deeper hunger, the hunger for a happiness that only God can satisfy, the hunger for dignity. There is neither real promotion of the common good nor real human development when there is ignorance of the fundamental pillars that govern a nation, its non-material goods: life, which is a gift of God, a value always to be protected and promoted; the family, the foundation of coexistence and a remedy against social fragmentation; integral education, which cannot be reduced to the mere transmission of information for purposes of generating profit; health, which must seek the integral well-being of the person, including the spiritual dimension, essential for human balance and healthy coexistence; security, in the conviction that violence can be overcome only by changing human hearts”.
The Holy Father then addressed the young, who, he said, are often “disappointed by facts that speak of corruption on the part of people who put their own interests before the common good”, and urged, “never yield to discouragement, do not lose trust, do not allow your hope to be extinguished. Situations can change, people can change. Be the first to seek to bring good, do not grow accustomed to evil, but defeat it with good.
He concluded by reminding all of those present that “You are not alone, the Church is with you, the Pope is with you. 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”. He entrusted this to the intercession of Our Lady of Aparecida, Mother of all the poor of Brazil, and imparted his blessing.