Pope's excitement and hope in South America

Pope Francis in Rio de Janeiro - WYD 2013 by Peter Potrowl - Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Pope Francis will today lunch with the Jesuit community at Colegio Javier in Guayaquil, Ecuador, the first of three countries he will visit on his seven days in South America, along with Bolivia and Paraguay. He will then fly to Quito where he will pay a courtesy visit to President Rafael Correa before visiting the Cathedral.

The Pope was welcomed at Mariscal Sucre International Airport in Quito yesterday (Sunday). He was greeted by a youth orchestra and local dignitaries, and said that he was “filled with excitement and hope for the days ahead."

Tomorrow, Pope Francis will meet with the Ecuadorean bishops and representatives from schools and universities before making a private visit to La Compania, the Church of the Society of Jesus, known as a jewel of Spanish Baroque architecture, in Ecuador’s capital Quito. The first Jesuits arrived in Ecuador in 1574, and work on the church in Quito began in 1605.

Once he moves on to Bolivia, Pope Francis will spend less than four hours in the capital, La Paz, due to the city's oppressive altitude, so on the same evening as his arrival on Wednesday (8 July), he will fly on to Santa Cruz.

Meeting people on the margins

Although there will be several  official welcoming ceremonies and private visits with the presidents of Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay and civic dignitaries in the three countries, the main focus of Pope Francis’s visit to South America will be public Masses and meeting people often on the margins of society. On Wednesday, he will visit a home for the aged run by the Missionaries of Charity in Quito; in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, he will address participants in the second World Meeting of Popular Movements, a group of grass-roots activists; and in Asuncion, Paraguay, he will visit both a pediatric hospital and the residents of one of the city's poorest neighbourhoods, Banado Norte.

A native of Argentina, Pope Francis attended the World Youth Day in Brazil in 2013, but this is his first pastoral visit to the continent.