“Never tire to work for a more just and united world! No one can remain insensitive to the inequalities that still exist in this world,” said the Pope to the young people during a visit to the favela of Rio, called Varginha, on July 25. “We all have to learn to embrace those who are in need, like St. Francis,” the Pope said several times during this trip to Brazil. And in the meeting with a group of Indians Pataxó Hã-Hã-Hãe of the Amazon region, the Bishop of Rome took the opportunity to denounce: “No to the savage exploitation of the Amazon forest.”
Pope Francis’ trip to Brazil gained the attention not only of the many hundreds of thousands of Brazilians and of pilgrims from the five continents, who are in Rio and Aparecida, but also of young people and adults, believers and unbelievers alike, all across the world. Among the preferred topic of Jorge Mario Bergoglio, from the moment of his election last March, we find the joy of faith, reconciliation, peace together with social and environmental justice.
To promote justice and peace is not easy. Many are the victims who lost their lives only because they were asking for justice and peace. This was the case of Fr. Ezechiele Ramin, an Italian Comboni missionary murdered by hired guns at the service of the great landowners in Cacoal, Rondonia, in 1985. The missionary was only 32 years old and was killed because he was defending the rights of the small farmers and of the Suruí indigenous people to have their own land. The last action of Fr. Ramin was an attempt to convince, during a union assembly, the protesters of one of the large ranches not to make recourse to weapons in their struggle to preserve their land. Fr. Ramin spoke words of forgiveness and died.
The Comboni Missionaries currently working in Brazil number about 100. One of their pastoral priorities is the activity among young people and in the small Christian communities for the promotion of social and environmental justice, peace and reconciliation. The missionaries and the young people are convinced that the kingdom of God and the transformation of the world are built with small gestures.
One of these was the march for peace organized last April by the Youth Pastoral group and by the Comboni House of Justice and Peace of St. Dominic Parish in Nova Contagem, in the State of Minas Gerais. In preparation for the WYD and to be in solidarity with the campaign “against violence and the decimation of young people” which is currently taking place in Brazil, about 2,000 people marched for peace. Comboni Fr. Giorgio Padovan, who works in Contagem, reports that Auxiliary bishop Luiz Gonzaga Fechio of the Archdiocese of Belo Horizonte and president of the bishops’ commission for Socio-transforming Action, accompanied the march.
Speaking of the event, Fr. Giorgio said that “the march for peace was a clear and strong sign of life, peace, youthfulness, justice and enthusiasm. Today’s youth continues to dream of and believe in a better world. The young people expressed themselves in favor of life, justice, peace, culture, employment. They expressed their rejection of violence, exploitation and drugs.”
The message of Pope Francis on the subject of drugs was clear. “It is necessary to face the problems that are at the base of their consumption, promoting greater justice, educating young people in the values that build up life in common, helping those who are in trouble and giving them hope in the future.” The Pope said this during his visit to the hospital São Francisco de Assis and Providência de Deus in Rio de Janeiro.