Pope coming home to Argentina the ‘best thing’ – slum priest

Pope coming home to Argentina the ‘best thing’ – slum priest
Michael Kelly in Buenos Aires

An Argentinian priest who works with the country’s poorest and most vulnerable people is hopeful that Pope Francis will visit the community during a proposed trip to the Pontiff’s homeland later this year.

Fr Pedro Cannavó, who was ordained by the then Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio over 15 years ago, is one of the so-called ‘slum priests’ working in the Argentine capital.

“A visit by Pope Francis would be the best that could happen to us,” Fr Cannavó told The Irish Catholic.

Pope Francis (87) was invited to visit his native country earlier this year by President Javier Milei.

“You well know that you do not need an invitation to come to Argentina. At the risk of saying the unnecessary, I invite you to visit our beloved country, according to the dates and places indicated to us, bearing in mind the widespread desire of our cities, provinces and towns to count on your presence and to convey to you their filial affection,” the president said in the letter dated January 8, 2024.

Sources have indicated that the Pope is considering visiting in November, the first time he will return to Buenos Aires since his election to the papacy in 2013.

Fr Cannavó said that the visit will depend on the Pope’s health. “But if he does come, it’s here – to these neighbourhoods, where he will be the most comfortable, and feel the most welcome,” he told The Irish Catholic during a visit to the sprawling parish of Mary Mother of the People, in the shadows of the Estadio Pedro Bidegain – home of Francis’ favourite soccer team Club Atlético San Lorenzo de Almagro.

Fr Cannavó said such a visit will mean everything to local people, many of whom are poor migrants from Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela and Chile.

“Here, no one reduces him to politics,” Fr Cannavó said, “for everyone here, he is the best thing that’s ever happened to Argentina.

“All of us priests who do this ministry of working and living in the slums would love to host him. But I think we have a better chance because here, he could say Mass in the San Lorenzo stadium!”

Bishop Darío Quintana Muñiz, prelate of Cafayate, and a member of the Argentine bishops’ conference told The Irish Catholic he was hopeful that the Pope will come.

However, he insisted that it will depend on Francis’ health given that the proposed trip to Argentina comes after a gruelling visit to Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, East Timor and Singapore proposed for September 2-13 and the month-long synod of bishops in October.