Pope wraps up South America tour with visit to slum

The Rev. Rogelio Livieres Plano was ousted in September.

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“With distance the Jesuits created something like, to use a metaphor, a communist Christian republic”, he told The Associated Press. For example, he failed to use hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations for social works as they were intended.

After visiting Ecuador and Bolivia, Francis arrived Friday, July 10, in Paraguay, where 90% of the population is Catholic, to begin the final leg of his 8-day tour.

Residents of Banado Norte are technically squatting on municipal land but want the right to stay. Francis’ fierce condemnations of economic inequality have led some – in addition to leftist Bolivian President Evo Morales – to say the Pope is preaching socialism.

Interrupted by applause, he said Saturday: “You are keepers of the memory, the lifeblood of those who rebuilt the life, faith and dignity of your people“.

At the outdoor Mass in Asuncion, a young lector asked the faithful to pray for Paraguay’s indigenous, for the poor and others. Paraguay is considered one of the most corrupt countries in the world, ranked 150 out of 174 by Transparency worldwide. It has operated since 2008 in the country’s north, where it has attacked police posts, soldiers and ranches. In his speech before indigenous and other grassroots groups in Bolivia, he denounced colonialism and noted not only is it alive and well, but also continues to arise in new guises. Until 2013, he used a horse.

The 78-year-old pope – in Paraguay on the last stop of a 3-nation tour of South America – also railed against ideologies and hammered home the central theme of his trip to his home continent: equality.

The stage was set by famous artist Koki Ruiz, who adorned it with 200,000 coconuts, 40,000 corn spikes and 1,000 pumpkins.

Read the rest…Pope: Poor sacrificed on the “altar of money”.

The Jesuit order to which Francis belongs had a long history of protecting the Guarani from servitude and what some call “cultural genocide” during colonial times and helped to preserve their language.

Among them is Argentina’s president, Cristina Fernandez.

“Our expulsion from the countryside, the high prices of land and housing in the city, coupled with low incomes… are the reasons we find ourselves in the “Banado””, Maria Garcia, a local organiser, told him from a platform before thousands of fellow residents.

“Now I can die peacefully”, said Francisca de Chamorra, an 82-year-old widow who moved to the slum in 1952. Her rudimentary wooden home sits right behind it. “Faith unites borders. And we wanted to unite the virgins”, she said of the Caacupe and Lujan virgins.

Chamorro said that if the pope had visited this time past year he’d be wading through floodwater.

Pope Francis put into practice his insistence that the world’s poor not be left on the margins of society by visiting a flood-prone slum outside Asunción on Sunday to offer residents a word of encouragement on the final day of his three-country South American tour.

The barrio’s name is Banado (Ban-YA-doh) Norte.

Francis has spent much of the past week – and before that much of his pontificate – railing about the injustices of the global capitalist system that he says idolizes money over people, demanding instead a new economic model where the Earth’s resources are distributed equally among all.

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In Banado Norte, Francis saw people living in shacks made of plywood and corrugated metal.

Credit Juan Mabromata  AFP  Getty Images