BOGOTA, Colombia, OCT. 20, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The streets are home for some 50 million children in Latin America, but they are also a privileged place for evangelization, says a Vatican official.
Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers, spoke about human mobility as a “sign of the times” with some particular pastoral consequences when he addressed the first continental meeting for the pastoral care of those who live or work on the streets. The conference is under way in Colombia and has gathered representatives of Latin America and the Caribbean.
“The possibility of traveling long distances in a short time, the capacity to get around freely and frequently, in relative security, and to choose when and how to travel, are all characteristics of a great revolution that has taken place in the last 150 years,” Archbishop Marchetto noted. “But streets and highways have also become a mirror for new poverties, such as the immigration routes, prostitution and sexual exploitation, and the misery of those who do not have a home.”
Nevertheless, the prelate said, “Sacred Scripture speaks repeatedly of highways and roads, and often makes them into symbols of the human pilgrimage toward God.” And in Christ’s life, he noted, they became a “place of evangelization and encounter with the marginalized of society.”
The road therefore has a special significance, the prelate contended, “given that it will continue to be a place of proclamation, testimony, transformation and healing.”
It is also one of the places where the Church shows her preferential love for the poor, Archbishop Marchetto continued. “The Church’s activity in favor of the poor all over the continent is important; nevertheless, work must continue so that this line of pastoral activity is ever more a path for the encounter with Christ.”
The Vatican official went on to mention certain issues of particular concern for this area of pastoral care, including prostitution and children who live on the street.
Regarding prostitution, the prelate said the issue has been aggravated by globalization and the increase in “sexual tourism,” which “can certainly cover adults who voluntarily agree to participate [in this industry], but is very frequently characterized by people obliged and forced to do so.”
To this problem is added an “increase in pedophilia, which affects boys as well as girls in this particular area. An increase in male prostitution should also not be forgotten, which requires, as well, a particular and specific pastoral care,” he said.
Turning his attention to kids who live on the streets, the archbishop recalled how this is a problem that especially affects Latin America, where some 50 million children are estimated to live without homes.
He called for solutions “both governmental and nongovernmental, which attack the roots of the problems, addressing the families as well.”