As he had done on previous stops during his trip, first in Ecuador, and then Bolivia, Francis called for an end to poverty-also endemic in the region-and lamented today’s consumer society.
Francis’ fierce condemnations of economic inequality have led some – in addition to leftist Bolivian President Evo Morales – to say the Pope is preaching socialism.
“Welcome the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, the prisoner, the leper and the disabled”, the Pope said in his homily, again speaking out for those at the margin of society. Pope Francis on Thursday urged the downtrodden to change the world economic order, denouncing a “new colonialism” by agencies that impose austerity programs and calling for the poor to have the “sacred rights” of labor, lodging and land.
Francis lauded the form of government enshrined in Paraguay’s Constitution, a “representative, participative and pluralistic democracy”, based on the promotion of and respect for human rights.
Pope Francis is meeting with Paraguayan bishops in a closed-door session.
“He (Pope Francis) gave a very harsh critique of the local church and the local authorities, saying that you can not exclude anyone, that the organizations that are here represent Paraguay’s diversity”, Simon Cazal, the executive director of the LGBTI group SOMOSGAY, told Buzzfeed.
“We want youths with hope and strength”, Francis told the crowd, as night fell over the banks of the Paraguay River outside the capital Asuncion.
Pope Francis arrives to celebrate a mass in Asuncion, Paraguay on July 12.
Pope Francis visited a slum village in Paraguay on Sunday, telling its people that they remind him of the Holy Family – Jesus, Mary and Joseph – and urging them not to let their struggles extinguish their hope or their faith.
Francis has emphasized care for creation and its most oppressed people in Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay.
“Now I can die peacefully”, said Francisca de Chamorra, an 82-year-old widow who moved to the slum in 1952.
While celebrating mass on Saturday in Caacupe, the Roman Catholic leader praised Paraguayan women for rebuilding the country after a devastating war in the 1860s wiped out more than half the population, primarily men. “But speeches are boring”, the Argentine Pontiff said to loud cheers. “Paraguayans are hard-working, but there are no jobs”, she said. Said Mesa: “By the grace of God, she survived and is now a healthy young girl”.
Francis did not include Argentina in his South American tour, perhaps due to the forthcoming presidential election there. A couple weeks ago, pigs were rummaging through garbage searching for leftovers. Instead, he said, they must improve the lives of people in places like Banado Norte, where thousands live in shacks without running water or electricity.
Some of the estimated 100,000 residents shrieked as Francis walked by, reaching out to touch his white cassock and snap a photo with their cellphones.