The work of “slum priests” is not ideological but apostolic and so belongs to the Church, Pope Francis has said in a new interview.
In the recorded interview, broadcast Thursday on the Argentinian radio station FM Bajo Flores, the Holy Father said the work of the priests in the slums of Buenos Aires “is not ideological, it’s apostolic, and therefore forms part of the same Church.
“Those who think that it’s another Church don’t understand how they work in the slums. The important thing is the work,” he said.
FM Bajo Flores broadcasts from a slum called the “Villa 1-11-14”, close to the San Lorenzo soccer stadium, where the Pope’s favorite team plays.
Before he was elected Pope, Francis assigned many priests to parishes in the crowded slums around the capital. His support made him a popular figure among the very poor who felt marginalized, especially during the era of Argentine military dictatorships in the 1960s and 70s.
“Francis is a slum Pope. It’s not a cliche. He was quite involved in this slum before he was elected pope,” Eduardo Najera, who directs the community radio station, told AP.
The interview, which took place two weeks earlier at the Santa Martha residence, was broadcast on a large screen in front of a crowd in the slum gymnasium.
The Pope was asked about Father Carlos Mugica and other members of Argentina’s Movement of Third World Priests, a branch of liberation theology. Father Mugica was labeled a communist subversive, but he also spoke out against armed revolution before he was murdered in 1974.
“They were not communists. They were great priests who fought for life,” the Pope said.