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December, 6, 2016

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The garbage scavenger and his friend the pope

BUENOS AIRES--Sergio Sanchez stood behind Pope Francis at his Vatican inauguration ceremony, wide-eyed amid all the pomp, glitter and VIPs of a slice of history.

That was Tuesday, but on Friday he was back at his job in Buenos Aires, hunting for anything useful in the city's garbage.

Sanchez is a leader in one of Argentina's lowliest professions — head of a 3,000-member garbage scavenger cooperative in the capital.

But he was friends with Jorge Mario Bergoglio, archbishop of Buenos Aires, before Bergoglio became leader of the world's Catholics.

"He was always with us at mass preaching against slave labor, against sexual exploitation, and in favor of the poor," the 49-year-old told AFP.

Sanchez was invited to join the Argentine delegation to the pope's inauguration. Another guest was schoolteacher Jose del Corral.

"He knows me well. That's why I was chosen to go to the Vatican," Sanchez told AFP. "But any of us could have gone. He kissed Jose and me and hugged us, and told us 'Keep up the fight!'"

Both men had a place of honor during the inauguration.

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