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“He took part in all the fights... His Eucharistic celebration in the Congress Squares in March 1999, which was carried out between bullets and fire, remains in history as a lesson in courage,” film director Marcelo Martinessi said.
Hundreds of citizens thronged the Cristo Rey Church to bid farewell to the Jesuit Francisco de Paula Oliva (Pa'i Oliva), an icon of Paraguayan social struggle who died at 93 in Asuncion City on Monday.
"Long live Pa'i Oliva!" and "Forever in our hearts" the people shouted as the coffin was transferred to the Santos Martires for the burial of his remains.
“He took part in all the fights. His example showed us that the body is a political weapon. His Eucharistic celebration in the Congress Squares in March 1999, which was carried out between bullets and fire, remains in history as a lesson in courage and as a memory for the future. Have a good trip, dear Pa'í Oliva,” film director Marcelo Martinessi said referring to the Spanish journalist who died in the neighborhood where he carried out his priestly work.
"Paraguay changed my social and political thinking," Father Oliva confessed in a 2015 interview in which he recalled his arrival in this South American country in 1964.
The tweet posted by journalist Alfredo Guachire reads, "The best memory I have with Pa'í Oliva during a demonstration."
“In Spain, I had lived a religion separated from reality. In Paraguay, however, I realized that a faith has to get involved with the place in order to become authentic," he added, stressing that he was "born again" when arriving in these lands.
The Jesuit dedicated himself to "helping young people to think" through a radio station he founded at the Catholic University. His work was persecuted by General Alfredo Stroessner (1954-1989), whose dictatorship arrested him and expelled him to Argentina. Pa'í Oliva then lived in Nicaragua and Spain, from where he returned to Asuncion in 1996.
Las mujeres que encontraron en el Pa'i Oliva el apoyo y el trabajo a la par son las que cargaron su ataúd. Un acto de amor imposible de superar. Gracias, gran hombre por elegirnos y por elegir a los pobres de este país. Tu huella será indeleble. https://t.co/mSlE7gFUXl
The tweet reads, "The women who found support in the work of Pa'i Oliva carried his coffin. An act of love impossible to overcome. Thank you, great man for choosing us and the poor of this country. Your mark will be indelible."
"When I returned to Paraguay, they welcomed me like a hero, almost like a museum object. It was very boring. So, I decided to go live in Bañado," a poor neighborhood in which there are hardly any public services. From there, he preached in various chapels and established a high school, a community radio, a soup kitchen for people with disabilities, a cooperative for single mothers, and a restaurant.
"The media have a very important role in social progress, but they remain in the hands of those who do not want changes," Father Oliva said, as recalled by journalist Clau Merlos.
In 2019, Pa'í Oliva was honored by the Chamber of Senators. He accepted the tribute on behalf of the Paraguayan people.