23 June 2016
Voice of the poor
A radical Argentinian lawyer and academic, the Pope’s new Justice and Peace adviser tells Christopher Lamb of the need for a revolution to fight poverty
A radical left-wing activist who bears more than a passing resemblance to Che Guevara, Juan Grabois is not the kind of person you would expect to bump into in the marbled corridors of the Vatican. Earlier this month, however, Pope Francis appointed the 33-year-old Argentine lawyer and academic as a consultor to the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
To those who know the Argentinian Pope and Grabois, the appointment perhaps should not be a surprise. The latter has known Francis for more than a decade and shares with him a passionate concern for helping the poor and excluded. And, in his new role at the Vatican, Grabois will not be pulling his punches when it comes to tackling the root causes of income inequality.
“I would say that I do have a revolutionary approach to change. I believe that we need a fundamental change in the ‘axes’ of the world – and this would be done by a revolution,” he tells me via Skype from the Patagonia region of Argentina.
He is a politics lecturer and a part-time lawyer, but what really drives Grabois is his militancia for those on the margins without a voice. Grabois is famed for gaining legal recognition for Argentina’s cartoneros, or waste pickers, in particular lobbying the country’s Government to create night-time kindergartens for children whose parents worked through the hours of darkness. It was through this struggle that he got to know the then Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Bergoglio, who, as Pope, showed his closeness to the waste pickers by inviting a cartonero to attend his inauguration.
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