WYD: Pope’s visit to parish social center in Lisbon’s Liberdade neighborhood recognizes “spectacular” work

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With several services, from children to the elderly, the São Vicente de Paulo Parish Social Center, in Lisbon’s Liberdade neighborhood, is a “spectacular” work for the population, who see the Pope’s visit as public recognition.

Built gradually since 1977 by the hands of Canon Francisco Crespo to meet the needs of the Liberdade and Serafina neighborhoods in the parish of Campolide, in Lisbon, both located on the edge of the Águas Livres Aqueduct next to the Monsanto Forest Park, the Centro Social Paroquial São Vicente de Paulo started by supporting the elderly with a day care center.

The needs of the population have increased the supply of social support, including a kindergarten, a center for Free Time Activities (ATL), a youth movement, a response to the reception of disabled adults and a home for the elderly dependent, supporting more than 500 people daily, to which is added the provision of physiotherapy and help to families in need, through the Food Bank, says Father Francisco Crespo.

The last building of the Centro Social Paroquial São Vicente de Paulo was the church, which the pastor wanted to be built only after the social support to the population was assured.

Inaugurated in 2000, with a capacity to hold up to 500 people, the church is expected to be the place where Pope Francis will give his speech during his visit to the institution on August 4th as part of World Youth Day (WYD).

Considered the biggest event of the Catholic Church, WYD will take place this year in Lisbon, between August 1st and 6th, and about 1.5 million people are expected to attend.

Em declarações à agência Lusa, o pároco de São Vicente de Paulo, que tem como lema sacerdotal “por amor”, diz que “foi uma surpresa” saber que o Papa Francisco irá visitar este centro social paroquial.

“Quando soube a notícia, fiquei estupefacto”, confidencia o padre, acreditando que a escolha por este centro está relacionada com a preocupação do Papa em relação às periferias e à população carenciada, sendo que esta instituição é “a única” em Lisboa que presta todo o tipo de apoios sociais.

O programa da visita do Papa ao centro social paroquial ainda não está fechado, mas a informação é de que a instituição será a única paragem, não irá em papamóvel, nem irá percorrer de perto as ruas dos bairros da Liberdade e da Serafina, refere Francisco Crespo, esperando que o seu discurso seja direcionado para a pastoral sócio-caritativa.

“O meu desejo era, de facto, que o Papa pelo menos saudasse as crianças, os idosos, os deficientes, todos aqueles que temos aqui na nossa instituição. Para nós, seria uma bênção especial e um momento único”, afirma.

Durante a JMJ, a instituição vai acolher “para cima de 300 e tal jovens”, que ficarão a dormir no pavilhão, e 30 pessoas com deficiência, que irão pernoitar nas instalações adaptadas que servem os utentes deficientes, assegurando a todos as refeições.

De forma unânime, independentemente das convicções religiosas, os moradores dos bairros da Liberdade e da Serafina enaltecem o Centro Social Paroquial São Vicente de Paulo como uma obra “espetacular”, reconhecimento que também é feito pelo presidente da Junta de Freguesia de Campolide, Miguel Belo Marques (PS).

Entretida na costura, no centro de dia, onde ao mesmo tempo outros idosos faziam uma aula de ginástica, Maria Silva, de 86 anos, é moradora no Bairro da Serafina, ficou viúva e há seis anos que frequenta a instituição para se manter ocupada.

“If it wasn’t for this work, the Serafina neighborhood would be nothing, it would be a drug center,” says the parish social center user, including in this reference the Liberdade neighborhood, which ends up being called Serafina because of the proximity of both.

About the Pope’s visit, it was with “great joy” that he received the news, although he is “still in doubt” that it will really happen, but he hopes to be able to see him, “if only from a distance.

Born in the Boavista neighborhood, Adriano Almeida, 67, believes that “nothing changes” with the coming of the Pope: “Maybe on that day or the day before, they wash everything, […] they wash all the streets. On the other days, they forget.

Without faith in God, the resident recognizes the work of Father Francisco Crespo, who “has done spectacular work, perhaps one of the best in Europe,” with social support in various areas: “You can run all over Lisbon, there may be similarities, but there is no equal.

Sitting outside a café in Bairro da Liberdade, on one of the streets in front of the parish social center, where she was expecting to see a doctor at the Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Lisboa, 90-year-old Lurdes Mendes, a resident of Bairro da Serafina, says, without mincing her words, that the Pope “is going to be dumb” when he visits the institution, because “it’s crazy” the work that Father Francisco Crespo did.

The resident agrees that the Pope should also visit the streets of the neighborhoods: “It’s just a shame that he’s going to see a lot of things he didn’t expect to see, poor guy. With very old things. There should be better maintained houses, not so many shacks.

WYD: Pope's visit to parish social center in Lisbon's Liberdade neighborhood recognizes "spectacular" work

For the president of the Parish of Campolide, the Pope’s visit “is very important” because “it ends up representing a recognition of the importance of the work that exists here made by Canon Crespo and the Centro Social Paroquial São Vicente de Paulo”.

Miguel Belo Marques feels that “the population, in fact, is very happy with the Pope’s coming”, so he intends to receive him “in the best way possible” and make him feel that “he is very welcome” to the parish of Campolide, but he is waiting for the final version of the program to prepare the reception to the head of the Catholic Church.

WYD: Pope's visit to parish social center in Lisbon's Liberdade neighborhood recognizes "spectacular" work

On August 4 (Friday), according to the program of the Pope’s apostolic trip to Portugal, a meeting with representatives of some social-charitable assistance centers is planned, at 09:45, at the Centro Social Paroquial São Vicente de Paulo.

This year’s edition of WYD, which will be closed by the Pope, was originally scheduled for 2022, but was postponed due to the covid-19 pandemic.

Nearly 300,000 pilgrims with registration completed one month before the Day

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