Pope Francis arrived in Ecuador this afternoon for the first stop in his three-country, nine-day South America visit, saying that he comes as a “witness of God’s mercy and of faith in Jesus Christ.”
A brisk breeze greeted the Holy Father in Quito, such that as soon as he stepped out from the plane, his zucchetto went flying.President Rafael Correa and his wife gave the Pope a warm welcome, telling him, “Welcome to your home.”
In President Correa’s address, he noted Ecuador’s pro-life laws and commitment to family. He mentioned the contradiction in South America being a Christian continent, but plagued by inequality. Referencing Laudato Si’, President Correa spoke at length about poverty and social justice.
In his own address, the Holy Father responded to Correa’s remarks, joking that the president had quoted him too much.
The Pope noted his previous visits to Ecuador and spoke of the local saints and blesseds.
“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,” he said. “In these efforts, Mr President, you can always count on the commitment and cooperation of the Church.”
The Pontiff said he is beginning his South America visit “filled with excitement and hope for the days ahead.”
“In Ecuador,” he noted, “is the point closest to outer space: it is 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.”
Here, the Pope added to his prepared text, saying, “The moon does not have its own light, and if the moon is hidden from the sun, it becomes dark. The sun is Jesus Christ. And if the Church distances itself from Jesus Christ, it becomes dark and does not give testimony.
“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.”
After the welcome ceremony, the Holy Father went to the apostolic nunciature, where he will spend the night. The first public event of his visit is Holy Mass on Monday morning at the Parque de Los Samanes, beginning at 9:30 a.m., local time.
On ZENIT’s Web page:
Full text: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-francis-address-upon-arriving-in-ecuador