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From the Andes to the Pacific

· The Pope's second day in Ecuador ·

From Quito to Guayaquil and back. From the Andean highlands to the Pacific coast, experiencing a strong temperature change and even some rain, Monday, 6 July, the Pope's second day in Ecuador was extremely long and very demanding in every respect.

And the locals did not fail to support the Pope with impressive displays of affection. At every turn, there were streams of people who had taken to the streets to show their love and gratitude. Millions of Ecuadorians manned the intersections waiting for a chance to see the popemobile, welcoming him to their home country like one of their own.

Francis visited the coastal city of Guayaquil in the morning. It is from this city that masses of people leave for the Galápagos islands. But this is not the reason for the city's historical importance, rather Guayaquil was essential to Latin America's independence. It is not, however, exempt from the evils of the continent, as witnessed by the many slums where many humble families live in small wooden and bamboo huts with tin roofs. It was here that, in 1985, John Paul II visited this periphery, which looks similar to the villas miserias in Argentina.

The popemobile reached the park where he celebrated Mass for the family in the presence of at least one million faithful, many of who had camped out overnight. For this occasion the Holy Father used a wooden staff, a copy of the one he used during his visit to the Holy Land in May 2014 which was made by prisoners at detention facility in Sanremo. The original staff, very dear to the Pope, was damaged during that previous visit and thus an exact replica was made with olive wood from Bethlehem for him to use in Guayaquil.

Rhythms of the traditional music, dancing, arms waving coloured banners all accompanied the celebration of Mass, recalling the simple joy of Ecuadorians. It was with this same atmosphere that the Pope had lunch with the Jesuit community at Javier College in Guayaquil. Among the Jesuits present was the elderly father Francisco Cortés, known as “Padre Paquito”. Walking with a cane, the Spanish priest, who will soon turn 91, has lived for 50 years in Ecuador working as a missionary, and now dedicates his time to hearing confessions. The Pope met with Fr Cortés privately and sat beside him at lunch, recalling their friendship long ago. When Bergoglio was not yet the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he chose to send his students to Javier College for formation and they were always welcomed by the vice rector, Padre Paquito.

Gianluca Biccini




St. Peter’s Square

Oct. 14, 2019