The Latest: Pope visits Jesuit church, then calls it a day
QUITO, Ecuador (AP) — Here are the latest developments from Pope Francis’ trip to South America:
Pope Francis has ended his private visit to the Church of the Society of Jesus in Quito and returned to the Vatican ambassador’s residence for his final night in Ecuador.
The Jesuit church is a Spanish Baroque gem that is one of the oldest and best known churches in Ecuador. It houses a painting of the Virgin Mary that was said to shed tears in 1906.
Crowds cheered the pontiff as he was driven back to the residence in the popemobile.
Tuesday was the last full day of the pope’s visit to Ecuador. He is scheduled to fly to Bolivia at midday Wednesday. He also plans to visit Paraguay on his eight-day tour in South America.
Pope Francis is pressing his case for a new economic and environmental world order, saying the goods of the Earth are meant for everyone and must not be exploited by the wealthy few for short-term profit at the expense of the poor.
Francis’ call comes on his final full day in Ecuador, a Pacific nation that is home to one of the world’s most species-diverse ecosystems but is also an OPEC country heavily dependent on oil extraction.
The pope issued the challenge at a meeting with business leaders and indigenous groups. The latter have championed his recent encyclical denouncing what he says is a profit-at-all cost mentality of wealthy nations that exploits the poor and destroys the planet.
Pope Francis has arrived at the Church of San Francisco in Quito, Ecuador, to meet with representatives of civic organizations, entrepreneurs, indigenous communities and Catholic lay groups.
His welcoming included a song sung in the indigenous Quechua language called “Taita” — which means papa in Quechua. The song was specially composed for the pope.
Both the church and the plaza outside are jammed with thousands of onlookers who showered the pontiff with cheers and applause.
Pope Francis is challenging Latin America’s youth to take up his environmental protection call, saying the defense of God’s creation isn’t just a recommendation but a requirement.
Francis appeal delivered Tuesday at Quito’s Catholic University is particularly relevant for Ecuador, a Pacific nation that is home to one of the world’s most species-diverse ecosystems but is also an OPEC country heavily dependent on oil.
The pope told students and professors that God gave humanity the Earth to not only cultivate, but to care of — a message he framed earlier this month in his major encyclical on the environment.
Francis also challenged the university to ensure that students’ education isn’t aimed only at profitable careers but at helping the poor and the environment.
Thousands of people have cheered Pope Francis as he was being driven through Ecuador’s capital to give a speech on education at Catholic University.
As he entered the school’s stadium, Francis individually greeted members of a group of children, young people, elderly and disabled.
About 5,000 Catholic school teachers and others are gathered at the stadium to hear the pope.
Pope Francis is giving out some bear hugs to children who were able to get through the fence around the Vatican ambassador’s residence where he is staying.
Monsignors, Vatican bodyguards and Ecuadorean police are picking the kids up so Francis can kiss and bless them. The crowd is going wild.
Francis will now head in his popemobile to Quito’s Catholic University for a speech, the second major event of the day.
Ecuador’s largest indigenous association is complaining that it was left off of Pope Francis’s agenda during his visit to the Andean nation. The group has been at odds with President Rafael Correa.
The head of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities, Jorge Herrera, says Roman Catholic Church officials never responded clearly to the group’s request to meet directly with Francis during his three days in the country.
He says: “It seems we’re not being permitted a direct voice.”
The pope has made outreach to indigenous people a persistent theme during his three-nation South American tour. He has said indigenous peoples are the most vital stewards of the environment and the group most hurt by the ravages of deforestation and contamination by petroleum and mining industries.
The pope had no events in Ecuador specifically aimed at indigenous people, however, though a lector at Tuesday’s papal Mass in Quito delivered a reading in its dominant native tongue, Quichua.
The head of Ecuador’s bishops says people in the Andean country are listening with great interest to the words of Pope Francis.
After the pope celebrated an open-air Mass at a large park in Quito, Bishop Fausto Travez said his presence was having a large impact on the faithful.
He said the pope “has generated great interest, hope and joy because we hear in his words the same voice of God and the church. Our people are hungry for God.”
Travez, president of the Ecuador’s Episcopal Conference, also likened Francis’ visit to that of Pope John Paul II in 1985.
“That visit pushed us to renew our commitment to evangelizing,” he said.
Pope Francis is telling faithful in Ecuador that being model Catholics is the best form of evangelization.
During his homily at a park in Quito, Francis said: “Evangelization doesn’t consist of proselytizing. Rather, it’s about using our own testimony (of God) to attract those who have become distant, in humbly bringing close to us those who feel far from God and the church.”
The pope’s words come at a time of changing religious landscapes across Latin America, including Ecuador and Bolivia, two of the three countries he’s visiting.
In Ecuador, 79 percent of the population identified as Catholic in 2014 compared to 95 percent in 1970, according to Pew Research Center. In Bolivia, 77 percent were Catholic in 2014 compared to 85 percent in 1970. In both Andean countries, many Catholics have left the church for evangelical faiths such as Pentecostalism.
Pope Francis is urging all of Latin America to channel the same urgency that brought them independence from Spain two centuries ago to spread the faith and bring together their ideals in a world torn apart by war and individualism.
Francis chose to celebrate his final Mass in Ecuador in Quito’s Bicentennial Park — an apt location given that Ecuador was where the first cries of independence against Spanish rule rose up in Latin America in 1809.
Francis told an estimated half-million people gathered Tuesday that in a world divided by wars, violence and individualism, Catholics should be “builders of unity,” bringing together hopes and ideals of their people.
He said: “There was no shortage of conviction or strength in that cry for freedom which arose a little more than 200 years ago. But history tells us that it only made headway once personal differences were set aside.”
The Mass featured readings in Quichua, the native language most spoken in Ecuador, and Ecuadorean vestments for the pope.
Pope Francis is preparing to address hundreds of thousands of people gathered in Quito to celebrate Mass at a large park that previously was the site of the Ecuadorean city’s airport.
Entering the area, Francis stopped the popemobile for a brief moment to hug an elderly woman in a wheelchair. He then gave her a blessing and continued.
The large crowd near the stage where Francis will celebrate Mass briefly broke the barrier, but security forces stepped in and moved people back.
A water-logged crowd estimated by officials at half a million awaits the pope at Quito’s Bicentennial Park. Francis will be celebrating the second Mass of his South American tour.
City operations director Cristian Rivera says more than 300,000 faithful spent the night and got doused with a pre-dawn torrential rain. He said paramedics treated more than 20 people for hypothermia and handed out blankets to the crowd.
He said two hydrosuction trucks worked to remove puddles from several inundated sections of the park.
A 59-year-old seafood vendor, Abel Gualoto, rubbed his cold hands and said he didn’t mind the discomfort.
“The joy at seeing the pope gives us the warmth we need,” he said.
Pope Francis is beginning the second full day of his South American tour. The 78-year-old pontiff is set to meet with Ecuadorean bishops in Quito before celebrating Mass at the city’s Bicentennial Park, a large green space in the area of a former airport.
In the afternoon, he’ll address leaders of the Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador before doing the same with civil society groups in the early evening.
Then later at night, he’ll make a private visit to the Church of the Society of Jesus, known locally as Iglesia de la Compania. The Jesuit church is one of the oldest and most known in Ecuador. It houses a painting of the Virgin Mary that was said to shed tears in 1906.