Here is a slice of Catholic faith from a part of Argentina we don’t hear much about.
Thousands of Paraguayan immigrants living along the polluted Riachuelo river in Argentina’s capital celebrate their “Blue Virgin” every year with a grueling but joyful 10-hour procession that winds through every corner of their slum. Last year, their feast day’s Mass was led by none other than Buenos Aires Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who has since become their beloved “slum pope.”
*The slum’s parish is named for Paraguay’s patroness, “Our Lady of Caacupe,” commonly called the “Blue Virgin” by the half-million Paraguayans who migrated to Argentina, many of whom live in ramshackle settlements known as “misery villages” in and around Buenos Aires.
Padre Toto, one of many “slum priests” long supported by Francis, led thousands in this year’s procession on Sunday, walking all day long through suffocating heat and humidity. He blessed humble homes decorated with flags and balloons with water from a plastic jug, and hugged victims of violence. Many people put up altars to the virgin, and some displayed the image of Francis, “the pope of peace.”*