On the final day of his Apostolic Visit to Paraguay, Pope Francis visited the people of Bañado Norte, at the chapel of St. John the Baptist.
Bañado Norte is one of the poorest areas in the country where the Catholic Church is present. There is one local parish, Sagrada Familia (Holy Family), comprised of 13 chapels across the area where residents attend Mass. The Chapel of St. John the Baptist is one of the largest chapels that is run by the Jesuits.
The Pope heard the experiences of two residents in the area, who recalled the struggles they have endured due to poverty and social injustice.
In his address, the Holy Father said that like the name of their parish, the people of Bañado Norte live a similar experience to that of the Holy Family of Nazareth.
“To see your faces, your children, your elderly, and to hear about your experiences and everything you went through to be here, to have a dignified life and a roof over your heads, to endure the bad weather and the flooding of these last few weeks,” he said. “All this makes me think of the little family of Bethlehem. Your struggles have not taken away your laughter, your joy and your hope. Struggles which have not lessened your sense of solidarity but if anything, have made it grow.”
The Argentinian Pontiff recalled that despite being in a strange land with no house or family, upon the birth of Jesus, shepherds and people in the area came.
“They became neighbors. In an instant, they became a family to Mary and Joseph. The family of Jesus,” he said.
“That is what happens when Jesus comes into our lives. It is what happens with faith. Faith brings us closer. It makes us neighbors. It draws us closer to the lives of others. Faith awakens our commitment, our solidarity. The birth of Jesus changes our lives.”
The Pope said that like those shepherds, he came to be their neighbor and to celebrate the faith together. He went on to encourage them to be missionaries in their town and to help support young families and the elderly.
“Perhaps the strongest message you can give to those outside is that solidary faith,” he said. “The devil wants you to fight amongst yourselves because he can divide you, defeat you, and rob your faith. Solidarity of brothers to defend the faith!”
Concluding his address, Pope Francis commended them to the Holy Family of Nazareth and led them in praying the Our Father in both Spanish and their native dialect, Guarani.
Before departing to celebrate Mass, the Pope said: “Go forward, and do not let the devil divide you!”
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On ZENIT’s website:
For the full text of the Pope’s address, go to: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-s-address-to-people-of-banado-norte