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Francis
and the daughters of Esther

The Jesuit Reduction which flourished in Paraguay demonstrates that “today too, a more humane society is possible”. Pope Francis expressed this conviction on the eve of the conclusion of his visit, reproposing that this reality is “among the most significant experiences of evangelization and social organization in history”

On the afternoon of the second to last day in Paraguay, the Pope made an unscheduled stop at the Institute of St Raphael founded by Fr Aldo Trento, an Italian missionary of the Priestly Fraternity of St Charles Borromeo. The institute welcomes terminally ill patients, orphans and children with severe malformations, the elderly, young mothers and women who are victims of violence. There the Pope kissed the deformed foot of a diabetic, whose foot will be amputated in the next few days.

Climbing back onto the popemobile the Pope arrived at the León Condou stadium of San José School, run by the Betharramites of the capital city, for a meeting with the representatives of civil society. The Holy Father then travelled to Cathedral for Vespers with the clergy of Paraguay. Bishops, priests, deacons, men and women religious, as well as representatives of movements attended the celebration in the Church dedicated, like the city itself, to the Assumption. The reading, taken from Hebrews was read in Spanish and in Guaranì. The intentions were read by an elderly nun, a recently ordained priest (27-year-old Rainer Rodrigo Riqelme of the Diocese of Concepción), a contemplative, a seminarian and a lay consecrated woman.

Francis made another unexpected stop at the Church of Cristo Rey and the nearby institute run by the Jesuit fathers of Asunción. Welcomed by 40 confreres, the Holy Father prayed in front of the heart of St Roque González de Santa Cruz, first Paraguayan saint, canonized by John Paul II during his visit in 1988.

At the end of the day the Holy Father returned to the Nunciature where he was visited by a victim of the military regime and Ana María and Mabel Careaga Ballestrino, two of the three daughters of Esther, the woman who was in charge of the laboratory where the Pope worked as a young man. He was also met by several of his Argentine relatives, including his nephew Juan Ignacio, the son of his sister Maria Elena.

 Gianluca Biccini on assignment in Paraguay

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St. Peter’s Square

Jan. 19, 2018

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