Tour of Latin America close to heart of Pope Francis

Francis will visit three of the region’s poorest countries, Bolivia, Ecuador and Paraguay

A fan with a flag in the Argentine colours. The pope is not travelling  to his native Argentina during this trip. Photograph: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters

A fan with a flag in the Argentine colours. The pope is not travelling to his native Argentina during this trip. Photograph: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters

 

Pope Francis sets out tomorrow on a week-long trip to three of Latin America’s poorest countries, namely Bolivia, Ecuador and Paraguay. Although the pope is not travelling home to his native Argentina, this pastoral visit still represents his first trip to Spanish speaking South America since his election in March 2013.

Francis takes his pastoral message of solidarity, of inclusion and of the church’s “preferential option for the poor” to three countries which are nothing if not “peripheral”.

While the pope will meet political and religious authorities, there could also be some very “Francis” moments when he visits the notorious Palmasola prison in Bolivia, stops at an old people’s home and a children’s hospital in Ecuador and enters the Bañado Norte shantytown in Paraguay.

Grassroots

campesinoscartonerosBuenos Aires

Last year, Francis surprised many in the curia when he hosted some of these groups in the Vatican, speaking to them of injustice, inequality and the rights of the poor and the unemployed.

On that occasion, too, Francis spoke largely off the cuff, something almost guaranteed next week as he finds himself at the very heart of many of the socio-economic and historical issues he holds dearest.

This visit, too, is his first trip outside the Vatican since the release of his ground-breaking “green” encyclical Laudato Si, two weeks ago. In that document, the pope called on all people of goodwill “to enter into a dialogue” to save our “common home” and to hear the “cry of the earth and the cry of the poor”.