A Catholic missionary priest in Madagascar known for serving the poor living on a landfill has been nominated for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.
Fr. Pedro Opeka, 72, is a Vincentian priest from Argentina who has worked with the poor in Madagascar for more than three decades. He founded the Akamasoa humanitarian association in 1989 as a “solidarity movement to help the poorest of the poor” living on the site of a garbage dump.
Janez Janša, the Prime Minister of Slovenia, has announced that he nominated Opeka for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize for his dedication to “helping people living in appalling living conditions.”
The Akamasoa association (meaning “good friend”) has provided former homeless people and families with 4,000 brick houses and has helped to educate 13,000 children and young people.
Pope Francis visited Opeka’s “City of Friendship” built atop a rubbish dump on the outskirts of the capital city of Antananarivo during his apostolic visit to Madagascar in September 2019.
Pedro Pablo Opeka was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1948. His parents were refugees from Slovenia who emigrated after the inception of the communist regime in Yugoslavia.
At the age of 18, he entered the seminary of the Congregation for the Mission of St. Vincent de Paul in San Miguel, Argentina. Two years later, he traveled to Europe to study philosophy in Slovenia and theology in France. He then spent two years as a missionary in Madagascar.
In 1975, he was ordained a priest at the Basilica of Lujan, and in 1976 he returned to Madagascar, where he has remained to this day.
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