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An inside look at a Brazilian priest whose 'office' are Rio's slums

2013-12-08

Father Renato Chiera has been a priest for 46 years and for 36 of those, he has lived in Brazil, in the outskirts of Rio.  He says that for nine years, he saw children get murdered in drug wars. But the final straw, came when he found 30 dead people in his parish

In 1986 he decided to build a shelter for homeless teens. Now that home, the 'Casa do Menor' has 25 centers all over Brazil, providing medical care, education and even sports. 

FR. RENATO CHIERA
Founder "Casa do Menor”
"We have many teenagers who have committed murder. That destroys them. It destroys them both physically and psychologically. Because if they already had low self-esteem, now it's even lower. They say, 'I'm miserable, I'm worthless, I've done this, there's no hope for me, no future.' So now they've fallen into powerful drugs like crack, which is made out of cocaine.”

During a recent visit to Rome, he had a chance to celebrate Mass with Pope Francis and afterwards they talked about projects in Brazil. He was looking forward to that talk, since they didn't get a chance to meet during World Youth Day in Rio.

FR. RENATO CHIERA
Founder "Casa do Menor”
"I told him: 'You validate my work of going out on the streets and the outskirts to help the helpless.' The Pope recently said the world seemed like a battle field where the first priority should be caring for the injured. This is what we're doing. He was really happy about it, he said 'good job.'”

Father Chiera says the teenagers he helps have often felt rejected. They usually don't have a family and they try to find one in gangs or drug cartels. Eventually drugs become a way to escape

FR. RENATO CHIERA
Founder "Casa do Menor”
"Our teenagers aren't visited by anyone, they aren't loved by anyone so that's why in the drug business they say: 'Here in this business I'm important, here I am somebody.”

With the World Cup taking place in Rio, Father Chiera hopes part of the spotlight will be on troubled children who are doing what they can to escape a world of drugs and violence. 

He's hoping to organize a set of sporting events, before or after big soccer games or even during half time. With cheers and support, he hopes the teens will overcome their troubles with hope instead of drugs. 


JRB/IZA/KLH 
AA/Casa do Menor/http://www.casadomenor.org/
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