Alejandra Pereyra got a call she never expected while she was knitting on Sunday. “It’s Pope Francis,” said the voice on the other end of the line. “I started crying,” she recounted on Argentine television. “With an angelic voice, he told me to be calm and that he was calling because he had read my letter and my story struck him.”
Pereyra had written a letter to Pope Francis earlier this month telling him the story of how police in Córdoba abused her and her family. Her words stood out to the Pope amid the thousands of communications he receives every day. She wrote:
I am mother to six biological children and have brought up six others, three of which have disabilities. One day, one of these children was playing with a ball on the sidewalk in front of our house, when a policeman came by and called out to him. He didn’t get a response so the policeman took an Ithaca rifle and pointed it at the child’s chin. I went to the courts in Rio Segundo and reported the incident. Since then, me and my family have been continually harassed by the police.
With all the pain I carry in my heart, dear Holy Father, I ask you for your help because after all the talk of rape, they finally did it. One night in September 2008, around midnight, a police car turned up at our house and a policeman who presented himself as police chief Sergio Braccamonte, got out … he pointed a service pistol at my head and raped me.
The Pope’s call, timed just before the trice-daily Angelus prayer, is one more way Pope Francis is revitalizing a Catholic Church that has been under global critique for its own sexual abuses. Jesus Christ’s mission focused on caring for the marginalized — as the New Testament Book of James puts it, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress.”
Pope Francis has been making a name for himself reaching out to ordinary people across the world. Earlier this month he called 19-year-old engineering student Stefano Cabizza, blessing him and asking that they call one another by their first names. He let a Down-syndrome boy sit in the Popemobile with him in Vatican City, and spent time visiting families in the Rio de Janeiro slums during the World Youth Day festivities.
The Pope’s personal compassion gave Pereyra renewed hope, she said. “He restored faith and peace in me and gave me strength to carry on fighting,” she said. “When I heard the Pope’s voice, I felt like being touched by God.”