(Vatican Radio) For the second time since his election on 13 March 2013, Pope Francis is returning to the continent of his birth – Latin America – on a journey which will see him interact and communicate in his own language - Spanish.
The journey to Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay, which is scheduled to last from 5 to 13 July, was presented on Tuesday morning at the Vatican Press Office by its Director, Father Federico Lombardi SJ.
The underlying theme of the journey to all three counties, ravaged by conquest, exploitation and conflict in years not so long gone by is that of reconciliation and renewal.
Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni:
Pointing out that this is the first time Pope Francis will visit three different nations during a single journey, Fr Lombardi also noted that just as he did in Europe by choosing Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina as the first nations to reach out to at the beginning of his pontificate, here too he is starting with the “peripheries” as far as the Latin American and global scenarios are concerned.
It will also be the first journey – Lombardi observed - in which Spanish – the Pope’s mother-tongue – is spoken throughout, giving him plenty of occasions to set aside prepared texts (including 22 official discourses) and to talk and converse freely with his audiences.
Lombardi also said that in just seven days Pope Francis will be experiencing enormous changes in temperature and in altitude: from 3° to 40° Centigrade, from sea level to over 4,100 meters above sea level as he travels from the Atlantic to the Andes and in between.
A swift glance at the Pope’s schedule highlights the fact that the journey will be intense for other reasons as well!
All in all, Pope Francis is to spend 48 hours in each country, and each time he will be involved in a number of “common” events such as an audience with each President; a “sit-down” with the bishops, an encounter with civil society (representatives of business, indigenous people, the world of education, culture); a meeting with consecrated people.
Of course in each country he will also be involved in other events and situations as he is scheduled to visit a home for the aged run by the Sisters of Mother Teresa in Ecuador, a prison (one of the largest in Latin America) and a meeting with members of the World Meeting of Popular Movements in Bolivia; a children’s hospital and a slum area in Paraguay.
Another important feature of the journey will be a Marian one as Pope Francis will gather in prayer before the “Virgen Dolorosa” in Quito and before Our Lady of Caacupé 40 km from Asuncion.
One important characteristic of the whole journey – Father Lombardi pointed out - has to do with the wealth of traditions, cultures and languages that are present on the territory. The Pope’s respect for the diversity and value of each of these is also reflected in all of the liturgies and celebrations.
Lombardi recalled that Pope Saint John Paul II travelled to all three nations: Ecuador in 1985, Bolivia and Paraguay in 1988 where he had a memorable meeting with minors, canonized Rocco Gonzales and was witness to the last days of General Alfredo Stroessner’s cruel dictatorship.
Father Lombardi concluded a detailed account of the Pope’s day-to-day schedule, pointing out that this journey is Francis’ “homecoming” in the sense that it is the first time he will be back in his own continent since travelling to Rome for the conclave in 2013, and that he will finally be speaking his own language. “All this – he said – should make for a particularly intense occasion for communication”.
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