Pope Francis will meet poor on return to Latin America

He is also set to acknowledge the sacrifices of his own Jesuit order in countries which, like his own, suffered years of military dictatorship

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The Independent US

A tumultuous welcome awaited Pope Francis in Ecuador as he began his first tour of his native Latin America since becoming pontiff.

With as many as a million people expected to turn out at masses planned there and later in Bolivia and Paraguay, he will emphasise solidarity with the poor.

Forgoing the chance to return to his own Argentina, in part to avoid any conflicts with presidential elections later this year, Pope Francis will minister to inmates at a notoriously violent prison, meet rubbish-tip pickers in Bolivia and visit a shanty town in Paraguay frequently washed out by floods.

He is also set to acknowledge the sacrifices of his own Jesuit order in countries which, like his own, suffered years of military dictatorship. He will stop at a site by the side of the main airport road in La Paz, Bolivia, where the body of a Jesuit priest named Father Luis Espinal was dumped in 1980 after he was killed for his efforts to oppose that country’s regime at the time.

 

Plans for his few days in Ecuador have been partly overshadowed by a recent wave of sometimes violent protests against the socialist government of President Rafael Correa, sparked in part by proposed tax increases at a time of economic strain.

“How sad we have to talk about this before the Pope’s arrival,” Mr Correa said in his weekly television broadcast last week about the political tensions.

The 5-15 July tour will be seen as a test of Pope Francis’ ability to reverse the dwindling Catholic flock. About 40 per cent of the church’s adherents are in Latin America, where numbers have also been hit partly by the rapid rise of Protestant Pentecostal congregations.

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