Pope Francis Begins South America Tour With Mass In Ecuador

Pope Francis Begins South America Tour With Mass In Ecuador

7:17am Jul 08, 2015

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Pope Francis is in South America for what's turning out to be a joyous homecoming. Not only does the Argentine-born pope speak Spanish, he loves to break protocol by greeting and hugging average people who've come to see him. That happened this afternoon in the Ecuadorian port city of Guayaquil, where reporter John Otis filed this report.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMEN: (Singing in Spanish).

JOHN OTIS, BYLINE: Pilgrims sing church hymns as they make their way to the cavernous Samanes Park in Guayaquil. People are coming for the first outdoor mass of Francis' three-country South America trip. One of them is salesman Harold Andrade.

HAROLD ANDRADE: Yeah, yeah, yeah - really, really happy - really excited, and I believe that I'm going to cry because I'm very excited.

OTIS: For security, many streets have been blocked off, forcing Mass-goers to walk for miles. Still, they come. Hundreds of thousands are making the trek, including these elderly people in wheelchairs.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Speaking in Spanish).

OTIS: Along the way, people hawk pope T-shirts with the smiling image of Francis. Also on sale are baseball caps, buttons, posters, rosaries, wooden crosses and incense. With the huge stage, the towers of speakers and the sea of people, the scene resembles a kind of religious Woodstock. But rather than rain and mud, the faithful bake under the equatorial sun.

HECTOR FREILE: My sister and my mom - they are here since 1 a.m. And they are camping here, so it's crazy. (Laughter).

OTIS: They're camping overnight?

FREILE: Yeah, they're camping overnight. Yeah, it's crazy. I'm kind of lazy, so I came later. (Laughter).

OTIS: That's Hector Freile, who's here with his girlfriend. He calls Francis a great communicator.

FREILE: The Catholic church needed someone like him, and I think this pope, Francisco, is doing a great job explaining, in simple words, what Jesus Christ wants from us.

PATRICIA PLAZA: (Speaking Spanish).

OTIS: Guayaquil lawyer Patricia Plaza tells me that Francis has taken the bull by the horns by addressing topics like divorce, homosexuality and the church's sex abuse scandal. This trip, for example, comes on the heels of the pope's landmark encyclical on the environment and global warming. In it, he slams a world economic system based on reckless development, overconsumption and the burning of fossil fuels.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Singing in Spanish).

OTIS: But on this trip, which takes the pope to some of South America's poorest countries, Francis is focusing on problems like economic inequality and ethnic strife.


POPE FRANCIS: (Speaking Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting in Spanish).

FRANCIS: (Speaking Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting in Spanish).

FRANCIS: (Speaking Spanish).

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting in Spanish).

OTIS: In his homily, the pope spoke of the strength of families and how the human family is capable of making the world a better place.


FRANCIS: (Speaking Spanish).

OTIS: "The good news is that the best wine has yet to be consumed," Francis said. "The deepest and most beautiful things for the family are coming." On Tuesday, the pope will deliver another outdoor Mass in Quito, the Ecuadorian capital, before traveling to Bolivia and Paraguay. For NPR News, I'm John Otis, Guayaquil, Ecuador. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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