Help instead of alms

Help instead of alms

Mass in Guayaquil © dpa

Help instead of alms

Mass in Guayaquil © dpa

Pope Francis celebrated Mass in front of hundreds of thousands of faithful in the Ecuadorian city of Guayaquil on the second day of his South American trip. His homily focused on the value of the family.

Pope Francis sees outreach to people in poor, crisis-stricken countries as a major task of the Catholic Church and his pontificate. "God always approaches the peripheries of those who have been left without wine, who have only despondency to drink," the pope said Monday afternoon (local time) at the first Mass of his South American trip in the Ecuadorian port city of Guayaquil.

The family is a "great social wealth that other institutions cannot replace," he told hundreds of thousands of people in Guayaquil on the second day of his South American trip. Francis encouraged the families not to resign themselves. The family was "the nearest hospital, the first school for children, the indispensable reference group for the young" and "the best home for the elderly". This wealth, he said, "must be supported and strengthened". Help for families is not a "kind of alms," the pope said at the open-air service. Society thus bears a "real social debt" to families.

At the beginning of the service, hundreds of thousands had greeted the pope at the service site with flags and chants. Francis drove for about 15 minutes in the open papamobile through the crowd in the park of "Los Samanes". Previously, there had been a cooling for the people with fire hoses – at about 30 degrees they had waited for hours in the sun for "their" pope.

Church under prere

"Jesus has a weakness for wasting the best wine with those who, for one reason or another, already feel that they have broken all the jars," the 78-year-old Argentine stressed.

The gross domestic product per capita in Ecuador is just under 6000 US dollars a year – in Germany it is about eight times as much. More than 13 million of Ecuador's 14.6 million people are baptized, but the church is under prere from the spread of sects. And the leftist government's oil exploration in the Amazon actually contradicts Francis' call to protect rather than exploit the world's natural resources.

Hope for bold solutions at family synod

In his homily, Francis also expressed hope that the Synod of Bishops on the family, scheduled for the fall at the Vatican, will produce bold and thoughtful solutions. "Often it is not the ideal, not what we dream or what should be," he said in reference to differences between family life today and Catholic teaching on marriage. In the "common family that we all form, nothing is thrown away and nothing is useless". No one will be excluded.

Facing sharp controversy over the Catholic Church's treatment of remarried divorcees and homosexuals, Francis called for "prudent and courageous" action at synod. He warned against pessimism due to increasing divorce rates and a growing number of families without marriage certificates. The best for families is yet to come, "even if all projections and statistics say otherwise".

Francis had arrived in Ecuador's capital, Quito, on Sunday evening German time, where he was received by President Rafael Correa. In his welcoming speech, he called for more rights for Ecuador's indigenous peoples.

Visit to a Jesuit school

Pope Francis then visited the Jesuit College Javier in Guayaquil. There he met, among others, the Spanish Father Francisco Cortes (91), who has lived in Ecuador since 1963. "Padre Paquito" together with 22 other Jesuits, including 6 from Guayaquil, had invited to a joint dinner.

Afterward, he rode in the Popemobile back to the Ecuadorian Air Force airport and from there to Quito.

Renewed meeting with president of Ecuador

In the evening (local time), Francis met again with President Rafael Correa in Quito. The conversation, which was declared private, lasted about half an hour at the presidential palace in Quito on Monday evening (local time). Afterwards, in a departure from protocol, both stepped out onto the palace balcony. From there, the pope blessed a crowd that had spontaneously gathered in front of the palace.

The meeting between the left-wing Catholic president and the pope apparently took place in a relaxed atmosphere. Correa and Francis beamed and laughed without ceasing. On the sidelines of the Pope's visit, there had been repeated expressions of discontent among the population against Correa. The occasion was the introduction of new taxes and plans for a change in the Constitution in favor of his staying in power for another electoral term.

At the end of the day, the Pope visited on foot the Quito Cathedral, opposite the presidential palace, where the people greeted him with prolonged applause. In the Episcopal Church, the Pope took the opportunity for a silent prayer. With a brief greeting to the faithful, Francis called on Ecuadorians to unite. No one should be excluded.

To Bolivia on Wednesday

Ecuador is first stop on week-long South America trip. Another big mass celebration is scheduled for Tuesday in the capital's Bicentenario Park. Francis will also meet representatives from schools and the education sector as well as civil society. On Wednesday, Francis will travel on to Bolivia, where he will hold talks with indigenous President Evo Morales, among others. Last stop on the trip will be Paraguay starting Friday.

The start of the Pope's trip pushed other ies off the front pages in Latin America on Monday. The focus of media attention in Ecuador was the greetings of President Correa and Francis.

The daily newspaper "El Universo", which is critical of the government, addressed the domestic political tensions in the country: "Pope Francis calls for the establishment of dialogue without exclusion in Ecuador". The newspaper "El Diario" took up Correa's opening speech, in which he denounced injustice as a social sin of the Americas.

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