May 25, 2013
Argentine 'cartonero' invited by Pope Francis to attend inauguration mass
Following Pope Francis’ pledge for the poor, a young man who makes a living in Buenos Aires collecting what other people discard -known here as a “cartonero”-, attended the pontiff’s inauguration mass as part of Argentina’s official delegation.
Sergio Sánchez, member of the Excluded Workers Movement (MTE in Spanish), was invited to the Vatican by Buenos Aires City Archbishopric and is said to have personally known Jorge Mario Bergoglio when the ex Argentine cardinal delivered his homilies in BA city low-income, marginal neighborhoods.
“I was five meters away from him, to his Left. I am happy because I was closer than the president was,” Sánchez said and added that his presence arose “surprise” at the Vatican. “Everybody looked at me without understating what I was doing next to Bergoglio,” he told reporters of Radio 10 station.
“We had the great honour that he saluted us first before greeting the heads of state. We met him privately and there he gave me a kiss and told us to have faith,” Sánchez said.
Despite the joy and the unique opportunity of joining Francis in the first official day of his papacy, the Argentine “cartonero” admitted he had to deal with some “troubles” especially when meeting migratory agents in Italy.
“At the airport, when I arrived, they just could not believe it. They made all the necessary tests to check if I was bringing something to another country. It was like the Midnight Express movie,” Sánchez explained and described how he was put down to a “humiliating” check-up forcing him to take a thorax x-ray film to confirm he was not carrying any drugs.