On the street among the poor of São Paulo whom “we will not abandon”

Alessandro de Carolis – Vatican City

Another servant of the poor, one who “burned his life with the poor”. Having lived 30 years in Brazil, Father Julio Renato Lancellotti is the missionary the Pope referred to during his Sunday Angelus. Pope Francis said he was able to speak to him on the phone after having received his letter at the end of September.

Covid and violated dignity

The short letter brings to light the daily misery that Father Julio shares with the people who live on the streets of São Paulo. A scene which has been harshly complicated by the Covid-19 pandemic which, thrown in with the endemic poverty that afflicts these people, creates an unimaginable and even unprecedented violation of human dignity.  Father Julio has seen so much of this, and yet he tells the Pope how surprised he is to see how a serious health crisis has become the proscenium of an even greater number of attacks on the value of life in Brazil.

Unequal Struggle

The letter that arrived on Pope Francis’ table is accompanied by photos that show the truth of the missionary’s words. The challenge of a small parish against a great global virus, the struggle of an island with the poor that tries to offer the bare minumum in order to protect health, even in situations where social distancing is practically impossible, and where there is a lack of food, showers and sinks. And yet, Father Julio assures us, these are people we would not and will not abandon.

“This is the messenger of God”

The letter sent to Pope Francis concluded with a request for a blessing that the missionary would have liked to receive in person, though he admits himself that this would be impossible as he would be unable to physically undertake the journey to Rome. The story of an old man who, the Pope told the faithful gathered for his Sunday Angelus, lives “old age in peace. This is our Mother Church, this is the messenger of God who goes to the crossroads.”

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