The Pope is visiting the poorest nations of Latin America- Ecuador, Paraguay and Bolivia, 5-12 July
As he has done on the eve of his previous Apostolic Visits to various countries, Pope Francis went to the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome on Saturday evening around 7:00 p.m. He remained in prayer for 20 minutes and placed on the altar before the icon of Mary a bouquet of flowers that were of the colors of the flags of the three countries he is to visit: Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay. He then returned to the Domus Sanctae Marthae.
The Pope is in Ecuador, 5-8 July, 8-10 in Bolivia and 10-12 in Paraguay. This is the ninth International Pilgrimage of Pope Francis since his election to the See of Peter on March 13, 2013.
Pope Francis arrived in Ecuador on Monday for the first stop in his three-country, nine-day South America visit, saying that he comes as a “witness of God’s mercy and of faith in Jesus Christ.”
A brisk breeze greeted the Holy Father in Quito, such that as soon as he stepped out from the plane, his zucchetto went flying. President Rafael Correa and his wife gave the Pope a warm welcome, telling him, “Welcome to your home.”
In President Correa’s address, he noted Ecuador’s pro-life laws and commitment to family. He mentioned the contradiction in South America being a Christian continent, but plagued by inequality. Referencing Laudato Si’, President Correa spoke at length about poverty and social justice.
In his own address, the Holy Father responded to Correa’s remarks, joking that the president had quoted him too much.
“In Ecuador,” he noted, “is the point closest to outer space: it is the peak of Chimborazo, which for that reason is called the place ‘closest to the sun’, the moon and the stars. We Christians identify Christ with the sun, and the moon with the Church.”
Here, the Pope added to his prepared text, saying, “The moon does not have its own light, and if the moon is hidden from the sun, it becomes dark. The sun is Jesus Christ. And if the Church distances itself from Jesus Christ, it becomes dark and does not give testimony.