Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

YOU ARE HERE

France's Basque country, where singing is sacred

Read more

PERSPECTIVE

Charitable donations: 'By 2024, we believe giving will be the norm'

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

Ex-Carrefour boss urged to give up €13 million retirement package

Read more

EYE ON AFRICA

Egypt, Morocco lose first World Cup matches after conceding last-minute goals

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Macron likes his china fancy

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

World Cup kicks off; Trump hits back at critics; Migrant crisis divides EU

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

The Jewish community's place in French society

Read more

#TECH 24

Football and tech: The data game is on!

Read more

ENCORE!

John Cameron Mitchell on his new film 'How to Talk to Girls at Parties'

Read more

Americas

Pope begins S. America visit with focus on poverty

© Aizar Raldes / AFP I Bolivia prepares to welcome Pope Francis during his eight-day visit to South America

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2015-07-05

Pope Francis makes his first South American trip in two years Sunday, for an eight-day tour of Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay -- but not his native Argentina.

The 78-year-old Jesuit pontiff, the first pope from his "beloved South America," has said he wants to highlight the plight of the poor on his home continent.

He is due to land in Ecuador's capital Quito at 3:00 pm (2000 GMT) and will give a Holy Mass in eight languages early Monday.

Francis's last visit to South America was a triumphant trip to Brazil that culminated with some three million people gathering in Rio de Janeiro along Copacabana beach for a mass at the end of a Catholic youth festival.

The Catholic Church has about 1.2 billion followers globally, and Latin America represents the biggest portion of that population.

But the region has seen declining numbers as more people turn to Protestant churches.

"I want to bear witness to the joy of the Gospel and bring God's tenderness and care," the pope said before leaving for South America.

"Especially children in need, the elderly, the sick, the imprisoned, the poor, those who are victims of this throwaway culture."

The papal visit coincides with a time of political tension in Ecuador.

Embattled President Rafael Correa, an avowed admirer of Francis who describes himself as a "humanist Catholic of the left," has faced weeks of protests demanding his ouster over his policies, including an initiative to increase inheritance taxes.

"We are filled with joy at the coming of Pope Francis, the first Latin American pope," Correa said in his weekly address.

"How the Church is changing! What a strong message you are bringing."

Correa will meet with the pope late Monday.

Outspoken advocate

Since he was elected pope in March 2013, Francis has become an outspoken advocate for the poor and on social and environment issues.

Last month, he urged the world to act quickly to prevent "extraordinary" climate change from destroying the planet.

In his ninth trip abroad, the three countries the pope is visiting are predominantly Catholic and have long struggled with poverty and inequality, which especially afflict the indigenous population.

The visit is the second to Ecuador by a pope, with John Paul II coming in 1985.

Then, about 94 percent of the population was considered Catholic, compared to 80 percent today in the country of some 16 million inhabitants.

The decrease has come as evangelical churches have attracted huge numbers of followers, many of whom are indigenous people who have grown tired of a lack of attention from the Catholic hierarchy.

Francis is expected to make particular references to these communities.

The pope's visit will see him leave for La Paz, Bolivia on Wednesday.

He departs that country for Paraguay on Friday, before returning to Rome on July 12.

(AFP)

Date created : 2015-07-05

  • VATICAN

    Pope Francis calls for urgent action on climate change in encyclical

    Read more

  • RUSSIA - VATICAN

    Pope asks Putin for ‘sincere’ effort on Ukraine peace

    Read more

  • VATICAN

    Pope calls Palestinian President Abbas ‘angel of peace’

    Read more

COMMENT(S)