Rio de Janeiro, July 26: Pope Francis on Thursday visited a Brazilian shantytown that until recently was controlled by drug traffickers, where he urged young residents to fight against corruption and injustice.
Amid heavy security measures, Francis visited the Rio de Janeiro "favela" of Varginha. The pontiff was welcomed with jubilation by the 2,500 residents of the favela, most of whom live in houses constructed of cast-off items and cardboard and who cleaned and decorated the streets for the occasion.
Francis, always smiling, greeted and kissed a number of children and headed for the favela's small church, where he blessed the main altar and was presented with a chalice as a gift.
Afterwards, he strolled along several streets under rainy conditions followed by hundreds of people, entered a house where 20 people live and chatted with them for some 15 minutes.
The first Latin American to lead the world's Catholics went on to give a speech before Varginha residents gathered on a soccer field.
"I would like to issue a call to those who have more resources, to the public branches (of government) and to all those men of goodwill committed to social justice: Do not tire of working for a more just and more caring world. Nobody can remain indifferent in the face of the inequalities that still exist in the world," he said.
The pope also addressed young people, emphasizing that they have a "special sensitivity to injustice" and that they often feel disillusioned by corruption, "by the people who, instead of seeking the common good, pursue their own interest".
"Never lose hope, do not lose confidence, do not let hope be extinguished," he urged his listeners.
The Catholic Church, Francis said, is ready to cooperate with every initiative that can mean true human development.
After visiting the shantytown, the pontiff met with about 40 young Argentines who are attending this week's World Youth Day event, which is the reason for the pontiff's visit to Brazil.