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Pope defends 'slum priests’



March 14, 2014 - Marking his first anniversary as pontiff on Thursday, Pope Francis defended ``slum priests'' from the accusation their advocacy for the downtrodden reflects a different, leftist ideology away from the Church. ``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,” Pope Francis insisted in an interview made public on Thursday. Community radio station FM Bajo Flores, that broadcasts from the Villa 1-11-14 slum across from the San Lorenzo soccer stadium, where the Pope's favourite team plays, interviewed the Pope two weeks earlier in the Vatican. The interviewed was aired for the first time in public on Thursday on a huge screen before a crowd gathering inside the slum's gymnasium.

Pope Francis said, “Those who think that it's another church don't understand how they work in the slums. The important thing is the work.'' As Argentina's top Roman Catholic leader before he was elected pope, Jorge Mario Bergoglio assigned many priests to parishes in the crowded slums that grew up around the capital. His support made him a cherished figure among the very poor who felt marginalized, especially during the bloody 1960s and `70s, when military dictatorships ruled the South American country. Pope Francis was asked about Padre Carlos Mugica and other members of Argentina's Movement of Third World Priests, a branch of liberation theology, which the Vatican tried to stamp out for years. Mugica was labeled a communist subversive by the right, 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,'' insisted the pope, who has sought to rehabilitate church views of liberation theology, a Latin American-inspired approach in which priests advocate for the poor. When asked by FM Bajo Flores radio why he has said that so often since the night of his election a year ago when he stepped onto the balcony at St. Peters and asked for the crowd's blessing. ``Because I need it,'' he answered. ``What I need most is that the people of God support me.''




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