Despite the seven-hour time difference with Rome, Pope Francis concluded his first full day in Ecuador this evening close to 9 p.m. (4 a.m., Rome time), smiling and greeting dozens of people individually during a courtesy visit to President Rafael Correa.
From the presidential palace, the Pope walked to the cathedral of Quito, arriving shortly before 8:30. Upon entering the church, he was given a bouquet which he presented to Our Lady, spending a brief moment in prayer and then placing a rosary around the statue’s shoulders. He then spent a few minutes in quiet prayer before the tabernacle.
Francis left aside a brief prepared address to give a blessing to the crowds.
He said: “I am going to give a blessing for each one of you, for your families, for all your loved ones, and this great people, this noble Ecuadorian people. So that there are not differences, not exclusions, that there aren’t people who are discarded. That all might be brothers, that all might be included and that no one is left outside of this great Ecuadorian people. To each one of you and your families, I give the blessing. But first, we pray together the Ave Maria.[Ave Maria and blessing]
“And please, I ask you to pray for me. Good night and until tomorrow.”
As he left the cathedral, the crowd chanted, “Francis, Francis, bless Ecuador. You are a messenger of Christ the Redeemer.”
Madonna and Child
During his courtesy visit with President Correa, the Holy Father presented the president with a replica of the venerated icon of the Madonna with Child from the Blessed Sacrament Chapel in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome. The original icon dates back to the beginning of the 13th century and is most likely the work of Venetian artists. A stone plaque near the altar indicates that it was before this icon on August 22, 1541, that St. Ignatius of Loyola and the first members of the Society of Jesus professed their religious vows that marked the foundation and beginning of the activity of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) of which Pope Francis is a member.
The icon depicts the image of the Blessed Mother and the child in her arms. Recalling the typical Byzantine iconography of the Theotokos Hodigitria (the Mother of God indicating the way). This gift was prepared by the Mosaic studio of the Vatican.