Pope remembers activist priest as model for service to the poor

By Justin McLellan | Catholic News Service
Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Pope Francis greets a group of Argentine visitors holding images of Father Carlos Mugica, an Argentine priest and activist, after the pope’s general audience at the Vatican May 8, 2024. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY — Fifty years after the murder of an Argentine priest and activist, Pope Francis encouraged Christians to see in his life and ministry a model of service and proximity to the poor.

Remembering Father Carlos Mugica, a priest associated with the Argentine Movement of Priests for the Third World who ministered to those living in Buenos Aires’ “villas miserias,” or shantytowns, the pope urged Christians to keep their hearts and bodies “next to those who suffer all types of poverty.”

Mugica was shot and killed after evening Mass May 11, 1974, by an operative of the Argentine Anticommunist Alliance, a state-organized terror group created to eliminate people associated with left-wing groups.

To commemorate his legacy 50 years after his death, Archbishop Jorge García Cuerva of Buenos Aires celebrated Mass in a stadium in the Argentine capital May 12 and read aloud the pope’s letter.

“Father Carlos still today pushes every neighborhood to strengthen a community that organizes itself to accompany the life of our people, and which calls on us to fight against every kind of injustice,” the pope wrote, emphasizing the need for communities “to have an intelligent dialogue with the State and society.”

Mugica “teaches us to not let ourselves be dragged down by ideological colonization, nor by a culture of indifference,” he said, calling on people to pray that “the principles of the Social Doctrine of the Church bear fruit in our communities and, through them, all of social life.”

Pope Francis prayed that all people may find “places of integration” by setting aside whatever may disqualify or exclude others from participating in community and asked that the cry of the poor not be met “with silences and complicity, but by looking each other in the eyes, recognizing errors and eradicating exclusion.”

In his homily, Archbishop García urged Catholics to remain close to the poor, “since only through the closeness that makes us friends can we deeply appreciate the values of today’s poor, their legitimate yearnings and their own way of living the faith.”

Those who suffer, he said, should not be mere “objects of our charity, but subjects who are protagonists of their lives and are not anyone’s hostages and do not sell their rights and freedom for a bag of food or an electoral promise.”

Jorge Bergoglio met Mugica during theology courses in Buenos Aires, and as archbishop of the Argentine capital, he presided over the ceremony to move Father Mugica’s relics to the chapel where he served during much of his priestly ministry.


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