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Slum Priests in Argentina, between So...
Buenos Aires, Argentina
By Fabien Palem
18 Jun 2015

Imagine a vicar, bored and tired of giving sermons to old devout women of his parish. His mind is somewhere else. Imagine this same priest all day long, walking around, riding his bike on the dirty and destroyed roads of the Buenos Aires’ slums; trying to avoid all the holes, puddles of water… surrounded sometimes by exchanges of gunfire. In Argentina, slum priests (“curas villeros”) became famous when the Vatican elected Jorge Bergoglio, former archbishop of Buenos Aires, as Pope Francis, in February 2013. If Francis is now considered as a “popular” Pope (or Pope “of the poor”), it is thanks to one of the “curas villeros”, Father “Pepe”, who had received Bergoglio in “his” slum to show him the plight of the people in his overwhelmingly impoverished parish.

As Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Bergoglio himself had always been a fervent partisan of (popular) Liberation theology and tolerated and engaged with the popular devotional practices of these unprivileged populations, mostly composed of immigrants from nearby Bolivia or Paraguay. Popular religiosity is the only leitmotiv of these activist priests. They are often in conflict with the Vatican, who has labeled them as “heretics,” because of their having baptized children of single mothers and for having tolerated popular devotional practices towards unrecognized saints. They don’t hesitate to stray from Catholics dogma, which they sometimes find ignores the issues facing the people in their parishes. At the same time, “slum priests” also stay away from local politics.

“Here (in the “villas”), there are no right or left-wing positions. All the matter is to get water, access to electricity, and to improve daily life,” insists Father Gustavo Carrara.

All around the Argentinean capital and its huge suburbs, these “slum priests” try to help the city’s most impoverished people, whose numbers have increased between 2010 to 2014 with the population of these “villas” passing from 163,000 to 275,000 in Buenos Aires alone, according to the local secretary for housing. Far away from the sumptuous Cathedral of the “Plaza de Mayo” in Buenos Aires, slum priests are practicing in precarious parishes, built by themselves with the unconditional help of neighbours. Among the religiously devout social activists offering their help to these vicars of the poor are psychologists, social workers and spokespeople for the marginalized. Suspicious towards corrupt policemen and the shady politicians, they fight alongside these priests to save the youth from the dangers of the street, from drugs, and to help struggling mothers.

 

Les pretres des pauvres: entre la révolution et l'héresie​

Les prêtres tiers-mondistes en Argentine, entre révolution sociale et hérésie ? Imaginez un curé fatigué de donner des sermons aux vieilles dévotes de sa paroisse. Celles-ci l’ennuient, à la longue, car il a mieux à faire. Imaginez ce curé passant ses journées à déambuler en vélo dans les rues en terres des bidonvilles, en évitant les trous, les flaques d’eau… et les fusillades ! En Argentine, les curés tiers-mondistes (“curas villeros”) sont devenus célèbres lors de l’élection de l’ancien archevêque de Buenos Aires, Jorge Bergoglio, devenu le Pape François en février 2013. Si François est aujourd’hui présenté comme le Pape “du peuple” (ou “des pauvres”), c’est essentiellement grâce à l’un de ces “curas villeros”, le Père “Pepe”, qui le recevait dans “son” bidonville, afin de l’alerter des problèmes du peuple.

Aux quatre coins de la capitale argentine, ainsi que dans son immense périphérie, ils viennent en aide aux plus démunis, dont le nombre ne cesse d’augmenter (de 2010 à 2014, la population des “villas” est passée de 163.000 à 275.000 personnes dans la seule ville de Buenos Aires, selon le Secrétariat de l’habitat, et dont les problématiques sont trop souvent oubliées des pouvoirs publics. Bien loin de la Cathédrale fastueuse de la place de Mai de Buenos Aires, les curés villeros exercent dans des paroisses précaires, qu’ils ont souvent dû construire eux-mêmes, avec l’aide inconditionnelle des riverains. Ces sacerdotes hors du commun, vêtus aussi humblement que leurs fidèles, sont un mélange d’assistants sociaux, de psychologues et de porte-paroles des pauvres. Méfiants vis-à-vis des policiers corrompus, des représentants politiques véreux, ils repêchent les jeunes de la rue et de la drogue, assistent les mères désemparées, qui ne savent plus quoi faire de la ribambelle d’enfants arrivés trop tôt…

Ces hommes de terrain ont comme seul mot d’ordre la religiosité populaire. Ils se sont parfois attirés les foudres du Vatican, qui les considère comme des “hérétiques”, pour avoir notamment baptisé des enfants de mères célibataires et accepté la dévotion des villeros pour des saints et des vierges non-reconnus par l’Église. Ils n’hésitent pas à prendre certaines libertés par rapport au dogme catholique et aux concepts de l’Eglise, parfois complètement déconnectée de la réalité sociale, même s’ils se défendent d’appartenir à quelconque mouvement de gauche ou du péronisme.

« Ici (dans les villas), il n’y a pas de droite ni de gauche : tout ce qui importe, c’est d’avoir de l’eau, de l’électricité et de vivre mieux », insiste ainsi le Père Gustavo Carrara.

Jorge Bergoglio lui-même a toujours été un fervent défenseur de la Théologie du Peuple, refusant de condamner leur vision de la foi et s’appuyant sur les croyances populaires de cette population déshéritée, qui compte un grand nombre d’immigrants (Boliviens et Paraguayens).

 

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Papa Francisco
Buenos Aires, Argentina
By Fabien Palem
01 Dec 2014

Pope Francis waves from a mural adorning the wall of the San Lorenzo football club's stadium.

Le Pape François (Papa Francisco) vous salue, depuis les murs du stade du club de football San Lorenzo, "son" club.

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Quiapo 13
Manila, Metro Manila
By David Ozkoidi
18 Sep 2014

Inside the Golden Mosque in Quiapo where many Muslims come to rest, to pray and talk. Many Muslims in Manila come from the provinces of Mindanao where Islam is a growing religion.

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Quiapo 24
Manila, Metro Manila
By David Ozkoidi
14 Sep 2014

The faith of Filipinos is evident in all temples of the Islands and the worship of images of saints, virgins and Christs. Quietly and in long lines parishioners are waiting to touch the religious figures. Quiapo, Manila. Philippines.

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Quiapo 02
Manila, Metro Manila
By David Ozkoidi
09 Sep 2014

A large group of grandmothers sell candles of all colors, in their view, lighting them serve to improve different aspects of life from love to the money. Religions are mixed to pagan beliefs in the district of Quiapo, Manila.

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Quiapo 03
Manila, Metro Manila
By David Ozkoidi
09 Sep 2014

Thousands of people pass daily through the huge Catholic church called "Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene" or "Quiapo Church." In the early nineteenth century the church and the Plaza Miranda were the center of what was the city of Manila.

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Quiapo 09
Manila, Metro Manila
By David Ozkoidi
09 Sep 2014

Demonstration of communist people in Quezon Boulevard against Martial Law imposed from 1972-1981 by the former President Marcos.

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Quiapo 12
Manila, Metro Manila
By David Ozkoidi
09 Sep 2014

Rush Hour in Quezon Boulevard. Traffic jams are continuous. Right hand side Quiapo Church, left the area where the Golden Mosque is.

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Cardinal Filoni News Conference
Erbil, Iraq
By Jawdat Ahmed
14 Aug 2014

News conference in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan by Cardinal Fernando Filoni, personal envoy of Pope Francis.

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BENEDICT DASWA
South Africa
By Frank
09 May 2014

Benedict Daswa, a devout Roman Catholic from rural Limpopo Province, South Africa, is set to become South Africa's first saint. The church, in the diocese of Tzaneen, lead by Bishop Joao Rodriguez is finalizing the process that could see Benedict Daswa beatified and then canonized for his martyrdom.

Daswa, was fourtysix at the time he was murdered in 1990, by an angry mob of villagers, for refusing to partecipate in hiring a withcdoctor, which He himself strongly refused to believe in that practice, to sniff out those they believed were responsibile for lighting strikes in the area.

" The Cause of Benedict Daswa is martyrdom, we believe he was kill in hatred of the Faith which he publicly and privately professed" Says Bishop Rodriguez.

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Another Sky: An Uruguayan journey 20
Senda Peatonal Rambla, Montevideo 11200, Uruguay
By Francesco Pistilli
01 Feb 2014

A woman carries an idol of Yemanja at Playa Ramirez, Montevideo. On February 2nd of each year, thousands walk from the beaches to the sea to honor Yemanja, Goddess of the Sea. Yemanja is an Orisha, representing the ocean and is believed the essence of motherhood and a fierce protector of children.

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Catholics March for Peace in South Su...
Juba,south Sudan
By Transterra Editor
10 Jan 2014

Juba 9/9/2013: On the 9th of January, 2005 in Kenya, a comprehensive peace agreement to stop the longest war in Sudan was signed. After that, South Sudan gained independence from Sudan. Today South Sudan faces a new war. Catholics in Juba march to prayer for peace in South Sudan. This prayer was attended by the ambassador of the United States to South Sudan, Ambassador Suzan Page. Photo by Samir Bol.

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South Sudan in Crisis 14
Juba, South Sudan
By Samir Bol
09 Dec 2013

Catholics in Juba march and pray for peace in South Sudan.

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Semana Santa 2013 In Brazil (22 of 25)
Paraty, Brazil
By Juliana Spinola
30 May 2013

Praying and chanting in procession for Holy Week 2013 - Paraty, Brazil.
Brazil has the largest Catholic population in the world. Holy Week, Semana Santa in Portuguese, is observed throughout the country with processions and rituals similar to those of other Catholic countries, yet made unique by their specific context.

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Semana Santa 2013 In Brazil (19 of 25)
Paraty, Brazil
By Juliana Spinola
30 May 2013

Praying and chanting in procession for Holy Week 2013 - Paraty, Brazil.
Brazil has the largest Catholic population in the world. Holy Week, Semana Santa in Portuguese, is observed throughout the country with processions and rituals similar to those of other Catholic countries, yet made unique by their specific context.

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The Last Church in Benghazi (12 of 14)
Tripoli, Libya
By Tripcarbons
23 Apr 2013

Father Alan leaves the congregation to conclude the service.

As Father Alan takes mass in Benghazi’s Immaculate Conception Catholic Church a young Libyan sits in the doorway wearing Adidas tracksuit bottoms and a football shirt and holding an elderly looking sawn-off shotgun.

Immaculate Conception is the city’s last functioning church after gunmen attacked the Greek Orthodox Church in March assaulting the priests and setting it on fire.

Since the revolution the church has been broken into twice and it’s only five minutes away from an open-air gun market but its priests say the only thing that will make them close the church is if the government asks them to leave.

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The Last Church in Benghazi
Benghazi, Libya
By Mais Istanbuli
14 Apr 2013

Benghazi’s Immaculate Conception Catholic Church is now the city’s last remaining church that once represented a predominantly 300,000 strong European and Asian expat community.

A year into the revolution the Bishop of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church noticed a sharp decline in the size of his congregation. Previously, his congregation was home to Benghazi’s Christian community evenly split between Italians, Maltese Libyans, Filipinos and Africans from Ghana and Nigeria.

Bishop Sylvester Magro, of Benghazi now states that merely 300 Christian and predominantly Filipino community remains in the city, this stark drop in numbers is represented during a once popular Friday service. The Bishop stated that he once served mass to a congregation of 2,000 people but now there are only around 6, largely consisting of Filipino migrant workers. The Filipino workers earned the respect of the Libyan Muslims as during the revolution most the of the workers served as nurses and that for a long period of time in the past 2 years they were not paid by their employers. However, instead of leaving the country as was the trait of most migrant workers, they stayed behind and tended to those injured during the uprising.

Additionally, the members and priests of the Greek Orthodox Church abandoned their holy site due to fear of attacks. The Immaculate Conception Church is now Benghazi only functioning church.

Relations with Muslims and Christians had been relatively peaceful, yet since the fall of Gaddafi and the rise of Islamic militias many Christians fled the country for fear of persecution. A large proportion of Italian Christians and Maltese Libyans, once totaling around 50,000 have returned to Italy and Malta.

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The Last Church in Benghazi (13 of 14)
Benghazi, Libya
By Tripcarbons
14 Apr 2013

Philip Chukiaiuma
'As you can see there are children running around. Everyone feels safe here. We just try to keep to our prayer and take care of our people.'

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The Last Church in Benghazi (10 of 14)
Benghazi, Libya
By Tripcarbons
14 Apr 2013

A member of the congregation reads from the New Testament

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The Last Church in Benghazi (9 of 14)
Benghazi, Libya
By Tripcarbons
14 Apr 2013

Father Alan begins the Sunday Service. The small congregation is made up of mainly Philipino natives.

As Father Alan takes mass in Benghazi’s Immaculate Conception Catholic Church a young Libyan sits in the doorway wearing Adidas tracksuit bottoms and a football shirt and holding an elderly looking sawn-off shotgun.

Immaculate Conception is the city’s last functioning church after gunmen attacked the Greek Orthodox Church in March assaulting the priests and setting it on fire.

Since the revolution the church has been broken into twice and it’s only five minutes away from an open-air gun market but its priests say the only thing that will make them close the church is if the government asks them to leave.