QUITO, Ecuador (AP) — Here are the latest developments from Pope Francis’ trip to South America:
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.
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