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Pope Brings ‘Church for the Poor’ to South America’s Poorest

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In this April 29, 2014 file photo, Pope Francis presents Paraguay's President Horacio Cartes with the book of the gospel during a private audience at the Vatican. Pope Francis is taking his "church for the poor" to three of South America's poorest and most peripheral countries, making a grueling, week-long trip that will showcase the pope at his unpredictable best: speaking his native Spanish on his home turf about issues closest to his heart. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia, Pool, File)

In this April 29, 2014 file photo, Pope Francis presents Paraguay’s President Horacio Cartes with the book of the gospel during a private audience at the Vatican. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia, Pool, File)

NICOLE WINFIELD, Associated Press

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis is taking his “church for the poor” to three of South America’s poorest and most peripheral countries, making a grueling, week-long trip that will showcase the pope at his unpredictable best: speaking his native Spanish on his home turf about issues closest to his heart.

Indigenous peoples will take center stage during much of Francis’ July 5-13 visit to Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay, while the Francis’ own Jesuit order will be in the spotlight for its role in evangelizing the continent centuries ago and even today.

Environmental concerns in the Amazon, border conflicts and the region’s tortured history with authoritarian regimes also factor into the agenda as history’s first Latin American pope returns to Spanish-speaking South America for the first time since he was elected two years ago.

“He knows this reality, because he worked so long with the bishops of Latin America and as head of the Jesuits in Argentina,” said Daniel Gussmann, director of the Catholic Church’s Caritas charity in Buenos Aires. “He knows these countries, and their problems with poverty and where much of the population has no access to land.”

Francis will meet with the elderly poor in Ecuador, visit Bolivia’s notoriously violent Palmasola prison and tour Paraguay’s flood-prone Banado Norte shantytown, bringing a message of solidarity and hope to society’s most marginalized.

He’ll also preside over a meeting of grass-roots groups representing indigenous peoples, campesinos and the “cartoneros” who pick through garbage for recyclable goods — the last a group he long ministered to while working in the slums of Buenos Aires as archbishop.

When the Vatican hosted these grass-roots groups at the Vatican last year, Francis delivered an off-the-cuff, mini-encyclical on the rights of the poor, the injustices of unemployment and the need to care for God’s creation — themes he’ll likely repeat next week. He insisted then that he wasn’t preaching communism but the Gospel.

“Francis comes not to protect the church but to protect the poor and the Earth,” said Michael Lee, associate professor of theology and Latin American studies at Fordham University. He said that represents a different focus from the concerns of his two predecessors, who on trips to the Americas focused more on the survival of the church facing a sometimes hostile and secular agenda and competition from other religious movements.

“That’s an enormous shift, and one that’s going to be very well received in these countries and by these people,” he said.

While the trip involves many of the di rigueur elements of all papal tours — protocol visits to heads of state, pep talks to seminarians and meetings with regional bishops — Francis will also have some very personal encounters.

He’ll lunch with a Jesuit community in Guayaquil, Ecuador where he has something of a mentor in an elderly priest and where he frequently sent his own seminarians to study. He’ll celebrate Mass at Paraguay’s shrine to the Madonna of Caacupe, to whom Francis became particularly devoted after ministering to Paraguayan immigrants in Buenos Aires. And he’ll pray at the site where a Jesuit priest, the Rev. Luis Espinal, was left in 1980 after being detained and tortured by Bolivia’s paramilitary squads.

It’s likely to be a poignant moment, given Francis’ own experience with the right-wing military dictatorship in Argentina. The former Jorge Mario Bergoglio was head of the Jesuit order there when two fellow priests were kidnapped by the regime, which joined like-minded governments in Bolivia and Paraguay to mount Operation Condor to wipe out and “disappear” leftist opponents.

While Francis visited Portuguese-speaking Brazil in 2013 on a trip originally scheduled for Pope Benedict XVI, this is his first to Spanish-speaking South America and is one that he himself has planned. As a result, the choice of Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay is not happenstance.

Bolivia and Paraguay are the continent’s poorest countries, with one in four Bolivians living on $2 a day, according to the World Bank. The countries are also small in population and weight compared to regional powerhouses like Chile and Argentina, where Francis is planning to visit in 2016 along with Uruguay.

“Here you see a bit the pope’s criteria: To go to visit even those countries that aren’t geopolitically at the top rank of the world panorama,” said the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi.

It will be a grueling eight-day trip that will test the stamina of the 78-year-old Francis, who has only one full lung and a bad back: It will take him across the globe to extremes of altitude — from sea level to the 4,000-meter highs of La Paz, Bolivia and back again — with multiple in-country flights and a dawn-to-dusk schedule each day.

Lombardi said Francis didn’t have the “minimum of uncertainty or concern,” and that the trip was organized to make it brief and bearable.

That said, Lombardi wouldn’t rule out that Francis might chew coca leaves — or at least sip tea made from them — to offset the altitude sickness that might set in when he lands in La Paz for a brief, four-hour visit.

Francis has 22 speeches planned, but he’ll likely ditch some or all of them and speak off-the-cuff as he tends to do when working in his mother tongue, lending an air of unpredictability to the trip (and alarm for his handlers).

“The pope will probably improvise a lot in Spanish, so be prepared spiritually and practice your Spanish,” Lombardi joked.

___

Follow Nicole Winfield at www.twitter.com/nwinfield

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Events

Moving from Pain, Trauma and Crisis Is Never Easy but Is Possible.

For more information, call 510 688-7437.

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Depiction of a woman with a distorted face; Photo courtesy of Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona via Unsplash

Join Pastor Phyllis Scott in her 5th annual yoke breaking, life changing conference,”

“Moving from Pain to Purpose; “The Journey from Violence to Victory.”

The conference will be held Sept. 23-25 on Zoom.

Guest Speakers:

  • Day 1, “Still I Rise”

Lisa Carlisle, ACBH Child and Youth Systems of Care Director

Tianna Hicks, Da Bigger Picture Foundation and the mother of Pittsburgh Steeler Najee Harris

  • Day 2, “My Secret”

Carolyn Russell, executive director, A Safe Place

Rev. Michele Raiford, E. V. E. International Ministries LLC, CEO

  • Day 3, “I am More than a Conqueror

Annabella Guerrero, communications director, Love Never Fails

Chief LeRonne Armstrong, Oakland Police Department

Zoom Meeting ID 853 2091 1800 No password required

Please register at https://paintopurposeviolencetovictory.eventbrite.com

For more information, call 510 688-7437.

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Activism

Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s Statement on Afghanistan Crisis

The people of Afghanistan are facing a terrible tragedy. It is crucial that we ensure the safe evacuation of Americans and allies, including our Afghan allies. That must be our top priority. This is an untenable and dire situation, and we have a moral obligation to protect Afghans seeking refuge.

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Apache attack helicopter in approach, Sep 2020, Photo courtesy of Andre Klimke via Unsplash

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) released the following statement on the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan on August 16:

“The people of Afghanistan are facing a terrible tragedy. It is crucial that we ensure the safe evacuation of Americans and allies, including our Afghan allies. That must be our top priority. This is an untenable and dire situation, and we have a moral obligation to protect Afghans seeking refuge.

“We should expedite Special Immigrant Visas and support all in Afghanistan —U.S. Citizens, women, journalists, civil servants and activists, and allies of U.S. troops—who need safe passage. This includes working with surrounding countries to encourage the welcoming of Afghan refugees across their borders.

“As Chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, I stand ready and committed to use my position to provide any and all support and investment in humanitarian relief and ensure the safe resettlement of the Afghan people.

“We must also remain intensely focused on investing in the safety and security of Afghan women and girls. An entire generation of Afghan women and girls have now seen the potential for a life of freedom and opportunity. The international community must continue to prioritize their rights and protection.

“Our courageous men and women in the armed services did exactly what they were asked to do. I pray for their return and the return of those still there defending the lives of Americans and Afghans on the ground in Kabul. We must get clear answers for how we got here and how to avoid repeating our mistakes.

“President Biden correctly laid out (Monday) what has been clear for 20 years: there has never, and will never be, a U.S. military solution in Afghanistan.”

  U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee’s press office is the source of this report.

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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Commentary

Community Responds to OPD Chief’s Call for Help in Stopping Violence

Oakland Chief of Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong has reached out to the community asking for support, and rightfully so.  For this is not just an Oakland Police Department fight but our fight.    

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stop gun violence sign photo courtesy Chip Vincent via Unsplash

Seventy-five.

That’s the number of homicides that have occurred so far this year here in Oakland.  There have also been at least 300 acts of violence injuries perpetrated against the citizens of Oakland, many of them gun related.

Oakland Chief of Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong has reached out to the community asking for support, and rightfully so.  For this is not just an Oakland Police Department fight but our fight.

Those 75 families who lost loved ones to senseless acts of reckless violence are families from our communities. They’re our neighbors, our co-workers, and our friends.

The word of God reminds us to “Love our Neighbor as we love ourselves.” The Bible compels us to want the best and do the best for one another.

What would you want if one of your family members were one of those 75 who had been shot and killed in the streets of Oakland? What would you want?

The answer is simple.

You would want someone to care!  To shout with outrage and do something to end this cycle of violence!

On July 27, a group of community activists met with Armstrong to discuss how they could come together organizing in a city-wide community coalition to bring holistic ideas to create a wrap-around approach to combating violence. Those ideas include a) mental wellness, b) community chaplaincy, c) ask the formerly incarcerated to mentor and encourage youth in crisis, d) job development, e) entrepreneurship opportunities, and – last but not least — address our ever-growing homeless issues.

For more information on how you can be a good neighbor, please call 510-688-7437

All for the Peace — “Shalom” — of our Great City.

Pastor Scott is the president of Pastors of Oakland and leader of Tree of Life Empowerment Ministries.

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