Schoenstatt with Pope Francis and his unusual request

by Enrique Soros | Source:




Translation: Celina Garza, Austin, Texas

Brazil is the fifth largest country of the world. John Pozzobon traveled 87,000 miles of its land visiting a million people in 30 years, carrying the picture of the Schoenstatt Pilgrim Mother to families, hospitals, prisons and schools. Presently her picture reaches millions of people monthly throughout Brazilian territory where Mary takes hearts to Jesus through her missionaries. Mary congregates multitudes. For example, every weekend, more than 10,000 people gather at the Schoenstatt Shrine of Atibaia, Sao Paulo, to find a road toward personal realization and conversión to Jesus. Many of these missionaries and Schoenstatt members have worked hard to prepare for World Youth Day. Presently the Schoenstatt Rosary Campaign has expanded throughout the world through its missionaries.

   Schoenstatt participates actively in the organization of World Youth Day serving the Church in the New Evangelization. Sister M. Shaine Machado, a Schoenstatt Sister of Mary, Executive Director of the Department of Registration, has coordinated a team that worked fervently for more than a year so that every pilgrim would feel personally welcomed in Rio, by having lodging and all the necessary information to the effect that World Youth Day may be a profound road to personal conversion to Jesus.

   Benjamín Paz Vermal, member of the Argentinean Schoenstatt youth, an accountant with a degree in Business Administration, with a master in Institutional and Political Communication, was part of the coordinating team of Communication and Press for World Youth Day in Madrid, and is presently the manager for the Department of Communication for World Youth Day in Rio, with eight areas under his direction, including the Press. Benjamín summarizes his mission in three objectives:  1- To extend the duration of the encounter, in a way that it will become an experience that begins much earlier and ends much later. 2- To foster the participation of presence in the journey. 3- To spread the message of Christ through the person of the Pope so that it will reach those who participate as well as those who cannot attend.

   There is a Brazilian priest who accompanies Pope Francis in the select entourage of this trip, in the popemobile as well as at dinners and celebrations, who surprisingly does not belong to the Roman Curia or the Vatican diplomacy; something that is not common in the history of the Church, since those who most closely accompany him on the trips are always determined by the Vatican dome.  It is about the young Father Alexandre Awi Mello, National Director of the Schoenstatt Movement in Brazil, one of the few names that were personally chosen by Francis for the high level entourage.

   Francis and Awi Mello met at the Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean, in the city of Sao Paul, close to the national shrine of Aparecida, in the year 2007. The Pope, then Cardinal Bergolio, coordinated the editorial committee for the Conclusive Document of the conference of Aprecida, which is presently one of the main references for  evangelization in Latin America. It is a book that Francis gives to the Latin American presidents, in which the bishops denounce the distressing injustices that the people of the continent suffer. Father Alexandre Awi Mello was of invaluable help to Bergoglio. They were together at Aparecida for three weeks, structuring the aforementioned document.

   The Brazilian priest is an expert in Mariology. At the age of 42, he specialized in the subject at the prestigious University of Dayton in Ohio, United States. He was born in Rio de Janeiro, but he lives in Sao Paulo, at the house of the Schoenstatt Fathers, the community to which he belongs.

   The Pope also admires the priest's ability to communicate and his capacity to put theology on the concrete reality of people, in the same way that Francis cultivates with passion. Both of them, with the participation of the members of the committee, had the prophetic mission of observing the Latin American reality in light of faith, and to depict it in the Document of Aprarecida.

   Among other things, Father Alexandre works with the Schoenstatt Youth in Brazil, which allows him to profoundly know the reality of the country, with its virtues and needs. The young people he leads, are presently a part of those who give witness in the streets of Rio, from which a new Church emerges for the world; a Church committed to values, to the humble, with the needy, and who wants to give witness to the faith in the authentic Jesus, not the "watered down" one, according to each person's taste, as Pope Francis affirmed at the cathedral of Rio before a multitude of young people.

   The Schoenstatt Movement was founded by Father Joseph Kentenich on 18 October 1914, and it is preparing to celebrate the centennial of its existence with a massive international participation next year, in the little town that bears the same name: Schoenstatt, where the Original Shrine is located; and in Rome along with Pope Francis.

Enrique Soros is the Author of "Conquering all Hearts"

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