Pope Paul VI Visiting a Slum DistrictIn Brasil Pope Francis went to visit a family in a favela. This reminded us the first modern Pope who went in a squatter’s area. In 1970 during his stay in Manila, Paul VI wanted to visit (overcoming the resistance of the Marcos government), the sprawling slums of Tondo, at that time, of about 100,000 slum dwellers. Easy to imagine the poor conditions, malnutrition, crime, unemployment and gangs of men without hope to survive except through theft, robbery and illegal trafficking. Not all squatters were unemployed, maybe half of them had a sort of job in Manila, but they were despised by the city dwellers. So young people in Tondo grew up with anger in their bodies.

Even knowing these situations, Paul VI wanted to do a tour through the slums, standing on the back of an ordinary truck, in order to have an overall view of this immense area of misery. Then he stopped and headed on foot into a small shack of a family with father, mother and ten children. He joined them in that house under a rusty roof, sat down at the table and talked with them while a PIME father translated his words.

The hospitality of the people of Tondo to Paul VI was enthusiastic. They were aware that the coming of a Pope among them was a clear call to the local Church, to the Government and to all believers to head to the poor. The photo of the pope among the tin and plywood sheds among the slum dwellers went around the world, causing commotion and protests against the government of Marcos

Speaking in Tondo, Paul VI said strong words: “What does it means that the Church loves you? It means first of all that the Church recognizes your dignity as human beings, recognizes your equality as children of God. Recognizes that the preference we owned to you it is because you have many needs both material and spiritual. Here I feel the obligation to proclaim, more than anywhere else, the recognition of the “human rights”, for you and for all the world’s poor. Therefore, I must also say that the Church has to love you, assist you and help you, even with practical means through her generous service in order to foster your economic and social liberation, reminding herself and the civil society to effectively recognize your rights as people of this world. ”

Following the Pope’s visit, the Archdiocese of Manila, that time the biggest in the world, opened other parishes in Tondo and officially asked the city authorities to provide for slum dwellers at least the essential services: shelter, water, sewer, roads and transports.

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