Quito (AsiaNews) – “May you,” the people of Ecuador “never lose the ability to protect what is small and simple, to care for your children and your elderly, to have confidence in the young, and to be constantly struck by the nobility of your people and the singular beauty of your country,” said Pope Francis today after his arrival in the Latin American country, the first stage of his trip, which will take him to Bolivia and Paraguay.
Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, the country’s bishops, other officials and a large crowd of faithful met the pontiff after he stepped off his plane, which landed in Quito’s Mariscal Sucre International Airport at 3 pm (GMT -5:00).
After the anthems and Correa’s greeting, full of quotes from Francis’ Laudato si’ Encyclical and various documents of the Latin American episcopate, the pope delivered a short speech before travelling to the Nunciature where he will rest until tomorrow.
“I thank God,” the pope said, “for having allowed me to return to Latin America and to be here with you today in this beautiful land of Ecuador. I feel joy and gratitude as I see the warm welcome you have offered me. It is a sign of the hospitality which so well defines the people of this noble nation.”
The Holy Father reminded his audience that he had visited Ecuador on several occasions for pastoral reasons. “Today too I have come as a witness of God’s mercy and of faith in Jesus Christ. For centuries that faith has shaped the identity of this people and borne much good fruit”.
“In our own time too, we can find in the Gospel a key to meeting contemporary challenges, respecting differences, fostering dialogue and full participation, so that the growth in progress and development already registered will ensure a better future for everyone, with particular concern for the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters. In these efforts, Mr President, you can always count on the commitment and cooperation of the Church.”
Lest we forget, “the point closest to outer space” is in Ecuador, “the peak of Chimborazo, which for that reason is called the place closest to the sun’, the moon and the stars. We Christians identify Christ with the sun, and the moon with the Church, the community of the faithful. No one, save Jesus Christ, possesses his or her own light. May the coming days make all of us ever more clearly aware of how close is the sun, which ‘dawns upon us from on high’. May each of us be a true reflection of his light and his love.”
As he brought his address to an end, the pontiff address noted, “From this place, I wish to embrace all of Ecuador. From the peak of Chimborazo to the Pacific coast; from the Amazon rainforest to the Galapagos Islands, may you never lose the ability to thank God for what he has done and is doing for you. May you never lose the ability to protect what is small and simple, to care for your children and your elderly, to have confidence in the young, and to be constantly struck by the nobility of your people and the singular beauty of your country.
“May the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, to which Ecuador has been consecrated, grant you every grace and blessing. Thank you.”