It was a multitude, certainly several hundred thousand people at least, lining the streets of Quito to cheer their welcome, amid a shower of flower petals, to Pope Francis on his return to Latin America. This trip, which after WYD in Rio de Janeiro — an appointment which had been fixed by his predecessor — is Bergoglio’s first choice in America, where he will visit Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay.
Immediately upon arriving, after a long flight, the Pope was welcomed at the airport by Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa with a moving speech where he calls their guest a “moral giant” for the international scene and expressed several points in which their concerns converged. The Pope then added emphasis to that “consonance”, who presented himself as a witness of God’s mercy and of faith in Jesus Christ.
In the Gospel — Bergoglio said — one can find the key to meeting contemporary challenges: respecting differences and fostering dialogue. With particular concern for the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters, to fragile minorities, who are the “debt still outstanding in Latin America”, he added. And in these efforts, he said addressing the President, “you can always count on the commitment and cooperation of the Church to serve the Ecuadorian people who move forward with great dignity”.
In the Andes which span the country peak of Chimborazo, geographically located “closest to the sun” and the moon, the Pope recalled. And as his predecessor had done before him, Pope Francis observed: “We Christians identify Christ with the sun, and the moon with the Church”. As the moon does not have its own light but is illuminated by the by the Sun, so is the Church by Christ. And if she moves away or hides from Him, “she will be in darkness and no longer able to offer witness”, he warned.
Thus, in order to be a reflection of the light and love of the Lord, the Pope concluded, the people of Ecuador must “never lose the ability to thank God for what he has done and is doing”. He continued: “May you never lose the ability to protect what is small and simple, to care for your children and for your elderly, who are the living memory of your people, to have confidence in the young, and to be constantly struck by the nobility of your people and the singular beauty of your country”, which, “according to the president, is nothing short of paradise”. This last line, he added, alluding to the need to protect it.
St. Peter’s Square
Jan. 18, 2018
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