Catholic missionary priest nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

priest nominated for Nobel Prize

A Catholic priest known for serving the poor living on a landfill has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Fr. Pedro Opeka, 72, is an Argentinian-Slovenian Vincentian priest who has worked with the poor in Madagascar for more than three decades.

Janez Janša, the Prime Minister of Slovenia, nominated Opeka for the award. He said the priest was nominated for the Nobel Prize for his dedication to “helping people living in appalling living conditions.”

Janša also recalled the former Malagasy President Hery Rajaonarimampianina saying father Opeka “is a living beacon of hope and faith in the fight against poverty.”

Fr. Opeka founded the Akamasoa (meaning “good friend”) humanitarian association in 1989. It was established as a “solidarity movement to help the poorest of the poor”. The association has provided former homeless people and families with 4,000 brick houses. It has helped to educate 13,000 children and young people.

Born in 1948 in Argentina to Slovenian refugee parents, Father Opeka started working for the poor at a young age when he travelled to various countries.

After entering the Congregation of the Mission (also known as Lazarists or Vincentians), he became a priest in 1975 and subsequently transferred to Madagascar, one of the world’s poorest countries.

Upon seeing the desperate poverty in the capital city of Antananarivo he decided to do something for the poor. This was especially vital at the landfills where people live in cardboard boxes and children compete with pigs for food,

With help from abroad and the work of the people of Madagascar, he founded villages, schools, food banks, small businesses. He even established a hospital to serve the poor through the Akamasoa association.

Opeka has recently been working with families who have fallen even deeper into poverty due to coronavirus measures.

“It is necessary if we want to live in dignity,” he said.


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