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Rome Reports

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An encounter with Father Charly, a priest in an Argentine shantytown

When Jorge Bergoglio was elected Pope, he wanted to keep wearing the same black shoes. So he used the same ones that he wore when walking through the shantytowns of Buenos Aires. Known as "villas miserias,� about 250,000 disadvantaged people live in them. They were one of the cardinal's pastoral priorities. FR. CHARLY Cura Villero (Buenos Aires) "He supported them in many ways, with his presence, with money, with a pastoral preference to have more priests living in the villa.� Carlos Olivero, who is best known as Father Charly, is one of the priests Pope Francis sent to live in the shantytowns. He crossed the Atlantic Ocean to tell Rimini Meeting attendees about the value of living in the villas. FR. CHARLY Cura Villero (Buenos Aires) "Naturally society has a tendency to only see the negative sides of these places. We want to talk about this, but also about the positive things in our neighborhood.� SANDRA Villa San Blas "I, for example, was born there and since I was a child I didn't know much about the neighborhood because my parents kept me safe by not letting me out in the street. But when I was 15-years-old, now I'm 19, I started going out more and knowing the neighborhood better and that's how I joined the missionary group.� MARCELO Villa 21 "Currently, the greatest challenge is insecurity and living among drugs. They are basic problems. And we also have urbanization problems.� Father Charly and young people that work with him try to help people inside and outside of the neighborhoods. SANDRA Villa San Blas "Now every 14 days we are going to a place called Pontevedra that is inside of Buenos Aires. We go every 14 days on Sundays. It is a very humble place where we go and help and play with kids. We prepare breakfast for them and entertain them. We go to visit the families, there are people that are hurting spiritually and we pray with them.� MARCELO Villa 21 "Above all, spiritually. We think that material things are ornaments, that true life comes from within, from one. It is what we are looking for.� FR. CHARLY Cura Villero (Buenos Aires) "We find in our neighborhood the fundamentals of Christian community and we find there the steps to make the world more just, to become closer with God. We see lots of beauty in our neighborhood.� When he spoke at the Rimini Meeting, Father Charly taught people a few things about his neighborhood. He showed that people outside of it have much to learn from those living in poverty. JMB Meeting JM -PR Up:ATO