The Latest: Appeal for Release of Abducted Paraguayan Cop

Here are the latest developments from Pope Francis' trip to South America:


11:05 a.m.

At the outdoor Mass in Asuncion, a young lector asked the faithful to pray for Paraguay's indigenous, for the poor and others.

He also asked them to pray for a police officer who was kidnapped a year ago by leftist rebels of the EPP, or People's Paraguayan Army.

The pope made reference to abducted officer Edelio Morinigo on Saturday evening at a meeting with civil society groups. But he didn't seem to have matters clear, mentioning someone "kidnapped by the army."

At a news conference later, Paraguayan Catholic Church spokesman Mariano Mercado referred to the rebels as "criminals."

The shadowy EPP as among the world's must hermetic guerrilla movements. It has operated since 2008 in the country's north, where it has attached police posts, soldiers and ranches. It is blamed for at least 40 killings.


10:45 a.m.

While Pope Francis was telling people at a Mass six miles away to open their hearts to "the hungry, the infirm, the prisoners, lepers and the disabled" Pedro Fernandez was back at work picking up other people's trash.

The father of eight was presente for the pope's visit earlier Sunday to Banado Norte, the slum by the Paraguay river that frequently flods.

He told The Associated Press that the pope's visit may be good for the spirit, but he had to get out now and collect plastic bottles and cans on his motorcycle cart.

If I don't work, said Fernandez, the household doesn't eat.

He says his family is up at 3 a.m. looking for bottles and cans because he also has to pay on installments for the motorcycle cart. Until 2013, he used a horse.


10:20 a.m.

Pope Francis is celebrating the last Mass of his three-nation South America tour on a very special altar.

It was made in honor of Paraguay's native Guarani and out of respect for Mother Earth. It is composed of 40,000 ears of corn, 200,000 coconuts and adorned with 1,000 squash gourds.

The altar was created by the artist Koki Ruiz, who also included an image of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of the natural world and the pope's namesake.

Also pictured is St. Ignacio de Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order the pontiff belongs to.

Ruiz told The Associated Press last week that the corn, coconut and squash are subsistence products of Paraguay's native peoples.


9:44 a.m.

Hundreds of thousands have gathered on a huge swampy field called Nu Guazu (Nyew Gwa-ZOO) inside a military base awaiting the arrival of Pope Francis.

Among them is Argentina's president, Cristina Fernandez. She's seated with Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes.

At this very spot, Pope John Paull II in 1988 canonized Paraguay's first saint — Roque Gonzalez de Santa Cruz. The Jesuit priest was a missionary to the Guarani people.


9:10 a.m.

Pope Francis has told the people of the flood-prone Asuncion slum he visited this morning that he couldn't have left Paraguay without visiting their land.

Many of the 15,000 families living in the poor neighborhood on the shore of the Paraguay river are squatters, refugees from the rural northeast where Brazilians and multinationals are increasingly buying up farmland for the production of soy and other crops

The residents want land titles and many wonder how they'll be affected when a planned highway is built alongside the river.

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