EspañolMore than half a million Ecuadorians gathered on Sunday, July 5, at Samanes Park in the city of Guayaquil to await the arrival of Pope Francis, where he will hold his first open-air mass in the country on Monday.
Samanes Park, Latin America’s third largest of its kind, is a 379 acre patch of land that can accommodate roughly 1.5 million people. After the mass, the pope will visit Javier High School, a traditional Jesuit institution, where he will meet with Francisco Cortés García, a 91 year-old Spanish Jesuit priest known as “Father Paquito.”
Before traveling to Ecuador, Pope Francis requested the meeting to receive a blessing from Cortés. “Tell Father Paquito that I want to go to Guayaquil so he can bless me, and I can bless him,” he said.
The pope arrived in Quito on Sunday around 3 p.m. local time. President Rafael Correa welcomed the pope with a speech in which he quoted several of Francis’s own statements on inequality and poverty.
The president also emphasized the need for the wealth redistribution in order to achieve a more just and equitable society. “Dear Holy Father, the greatest social sin of our America is injustice. How can we call ourselves the most Christian continent in the world, when we’re the most unequal one at the same time?” Correa said.
Meanwhile, the pope thanked all Ecuadorians and invited the public to promote dialogue and inclusive participation, “so that society’s achievements in development and progress may guarantee a better future for everyone.”
Afterwards, as Pope Francis’s caravan headed toward the Apostolic Nunciature building in Quito, the pontiff was met with chants of “Correa, out!” — the same slogan that has rung throughout anti-government protests in the streets of Ecuador during the last month.
Pope Francis is scheduled to return to Quito on Monday afternoon, where he plans to visit President Correa at the Carondelet Palace. The pope will stay at the Ecuadorian capital until Wednesday, July 8, before leaving for Bolivia and Paraguay.
Ecuador expects 30,000 tourists to enter the country as a result of the pope’s visit. Local authorities have reported that between July 4 and 5, at least 10,000 Colombians crossed the border to meet the head of the Catholic Church.