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Slum Priests in Argentina, between So...
Buenos Aires, Argentina
By Fabien Palem
18 Jun 2015

Imagine a vicar, bored and tired of giving sermons to old devout women of his parish. His mind is somewhere else. Imagine this same priest all day long, walking around, riding his bike on the dirty and destroyed roads of the Buenos Aires’ slums; trying to avoid all the holes, puddles of water… surrounded sometimes by exchanges of gunfire. In Argentina, slum priests (“curas villeros”) became famous when the Vatican elected Jorge Bergoglio, former archbishop of Buenos Aires, as Pope Francis, in February 2013. If Francis is now considered as a “popular” Pope (or Pope “of the poor”), it is thanks to one of the “curas villeros”, Father “Pepe”, who had received Bergoglio in “his” slum to show him the plight of the people in his overwhelmingly impoverished parish.

As Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Bergoglio himself had always been a fervent partisan of (popular) Liberation theology and tolerated and engaged with the popular devotional practices of these unprivileged populations, mostly composed of immigrants from nearby Bolivia or Paraguay. Popular religiosity is the only leitmotiv of these activist priests. They are often in conflict with the Vatican, who has labeled them as “heretics,” because of their having baptized children of single mothers and for having tolerated popular devotional practices towards unrecognized saints. They don’t hesitate to stray from Catholics dogma, which they sometimes find ignores the issues facing the people in their parishes. At the same time, “slum priests” also stay away from local politics.

“Here (in the “villas”), there are no right or left-wing positions. All the matter is to get water, access to electricity, and to improve daily life,” insists Father Gustavo Carrara.

All around the Argentinean capital and its huge suburbs, these “slum priests” try to help the city’s most impoverished people, whose numbers have increased between 2010 to 2014 with the population of these “villas” passing from 163,000 to 275,000 in Buenos Aires alone, according to the local secretary for housing. Far away from the sumptuous Cathedral of the “Plaza de Mayo” in Buenos Aires, slum priests are practicing in precarious parishes, built by themselves with the unconditional help of neighbours. Among the religiously devout social activists offering their help to these vicars of the poor are psychologists, social workers and spokespeople for the marginalized. Suspicious towards corrupt policemen and the shady politicians, they fight alongside these priests to save the youth from the dangers of the street, from drugs, and to help struggling mothers.

 

Les pretres des pauvres: entre la révolution et l'héresie​

Les prêtres tiers-mondistes en Argentine, entre révolution sociale et hérésie ? Imaginez un curé fatigué de donner des sermons aux vieilles dévotes de sa paroisse. Celles-ci l’ennuient, à la longue, car il a mieux à faire. Imaginez ce curé passant ses journées à déambuler en vélo dans les rues en terres des bidonvilles, en évitant les trous, les flaques d’eau… et les fusillades ! En Argentine, les curés tiers-mondistes (“curas villeros”) sont devenus célèbres lors de l’élection de l’ancien archevêque de Buenos Aires, Jorge Bergoglio, devenu le Pape François en février 2013. Si François est aujourd’hui présenté comme le Pape “du peuple” (ou “des pauvres”), c’est essentiellement grâce à l’un de ces “curas villeros”, le Père “Pepe”, qui le recevait dans “son” bidonville, afin de l’alerter des problèmes du peuple.

Aux quatre coins de la capitale argentine, ainsi que dans son immense périphérie, ils viennent en aide aux plus démunis, dont le nombre ne cesse d’augmenter (de 2010 à 2014, la population des “villas” est passée de 163.000 à 275.000 personnes dans la seule ville de Buenos Aires, selon le Secrétariat de l’habitat, et dont les problématiques sont trop souvent oubliées des pouvoirs publics. Bien loin de la Cathédrale fastueuse de la place de Mai de Buenos Aires, les curés villeros exercent dans des paroisses précaires, qu’ils ont souvent dû construire eux-mêmes, avec l’aide inconditionnelle des riverains. Ces sacerdotes hors du commun, vêtus aussi humblement que leurs fidèles, sont un mélange d’assistants sociaux, de psychologues et de porte-paroles des pauvres. Méfiants vis-à-vis des policiers corrompus, des représentants politiques véreux, ils repêchent les jeunes de la rue et de la drogue, assistent les mères désemparées, qui ne savent plus quoi faire de la ribambelle d’enfants arrivés trop tôt…

Ces hommes de terrain ont comme seul mot d’ordre la religiosité populaire. Ils se sont parfois attirés les foudres du Vatican, qui les considère comme des “hérétiques”, pour avoir notamment baptisé des enfants de mères célibataires et accepté la dévotion des villeros pour des saints et des vierges non-reconnus par l’Église. Ils n’hésitent pas à prendre certaines libertés par rapport au dogme catholique et aux concepts de l’Eglise, parfois complètement déconnectée de la réalité sociale, même s’ils se défendent d’appartenir à quelconque mouvement de gauche ou du péronisme.

« Ici (dans les villas), il n’y a pas de droite ni de gauche : tout ce qui importe, c’est d’avoir de l’eau, de l’électricité et de vivre mieux », insiste ainsi le Père Gustavo Carrara.

Jorge Bergoglio lui-même a toujours été un fervent défenseur de la Théologie du Peuple, refusant de condamner leur vision de la foi et s’appuyant sur les croyances populaires de cette population déshéritée, qui compte un grand nombre d’immigrants (Boliviens et Paraguayens).

 

FULL ARTICLE AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST / ARTICLE COMPLET DISPONIBLE SUR DEMANDE

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October 2014,
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An opening of the Exhibition in Beirut Art Center, September 5 2012. WHITE WALL aims to create a vibrant interaction between graffiti, the city of Beirut and the Beirut Art Center. Therefore the project is divided over different venues. Beirut Art Center will host the exhibition for a period of two months. The rest of the exhibition will be spread over the walls of the city.

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Beirut, Lebanon
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Beirut, Lebanon
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White Wall: A Graffiti and Street Art...
Beirut, Lebanon
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White Wall: A Graffiti and Street Art...
Beirut, Lebanon
By Marta Bogdanska
04 Sep 2012

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White Wall: A Graffiti and Street Art...
Beirut, Lebanon
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White Wall: A Graffiti and Street Art...
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White Wall: A Graffiti and Street Art...
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White Wall: A Graffiti and Street Art...
Beirut, Lebanon
By Marta Bogdanska
04 Sep 2012

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White Wall: A Graffiti and Street Art...
Beirut, Lebanon
By Marta Bogdanska
04 Sep 2012

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White Wall: A Graffiti and Street Art...
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By Marta Bogdanska
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White Wall: A Graffiti and Street Art...
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By Marta Bogdanska
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By Marta Bogdanska
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West Bank Barrier (2 of 11)
West Bank, Israel
By Osie Greenway
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The Israeli West Bank barrier is a security and separation barrier under construction by the State of Israel along and within the West Bank. The painting here depicting the german shepherd attacking the Palestinian woman is created from a photograph that was taken in the West Bank during altercations between Israeli security forces and Palestinians over the building of the barriers. This guard tower is now abandoned by the ISF after continual attacks during the second intifada.

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West Bank Barrier (4 of 11)
West Bank, Israel
By Osie Greenway
13 Aug 2012

The Israeli West Bank barrier is a security and separation barrier under construction by the State of Israel along and within the West Bank. This mural is one of the most elaborate and is a Palestinian rendition of the famous painting from the 1830s by Eugene Delacroix commemorating the French Revolution. The large "WHATEVER" behind the painting is a feeling felt by many Palestinian youth of any glorifying successful revolution against their occupiers.

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By Rachel Beth Anderson
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Freedom is Coming
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Graffiti that reads: "Freedom is Coming"

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Cairo, Egypt
By randoshka2000
11 Dec 2011

Egyptians spray painting revolution graffitis.

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Cairo, Egypt
By randoshka2000
11 Dec 2011

Egyptians gather by a wall of graffiti.

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Graffiti in Egypt
Cairo, Egypt
By randoshka2000
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