The Latest: Paraguayans Elated by Pope's Visit

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


5:50 p.m.

The crowd walking back to Asuncion's center from the airport is in high spirits after seeing the pope, singing and chanting "Long live the pope." Many people said they hoped Francis' visit would help improve life for the marginalized.

Vivian Nunez, a 26-year-old psychologist, said she was very moved and hopes for big changes. "Maybe there won't be political change, but human change, in each person."

Housewife Eladia Olmedo said the pope has already changed Paraguay: "They fixed the streets, they cleaned things up. They beautified the city."


4:00 p.m.

Pope Francis is making a brief stop at the Buen Pastor women's prison in Paraguay, listening to 50 inmates in a choir sing a song specially prepared for him.

The prison houses 500 female inmates, many of whom are detained on drug charges.

Francis plans to rest briefly after the visit then head to the presidential palace to meet with President Horacio Cartes.


3:30 p.m.

Pope Francis is getting a show on the tarmac of the airport in Asuncion, Paraguay.

Upon getting off the plane, Francis sat down next to President Horacio Cartes. The two listened to a girls' choir that sang in Spanish, along with indigenous languages Guarani and Ache. A group of dancers also entertained the pope, who looked on with smiles.

When he stood up, several young girls ran up and hugged him. He received them with open arms and then gave them blessings.


3 p.m.

Pope Francis is now in Paraguay, where he's set to spend three days for the last stop of his South America tour.

Paraguay's government has declared Friday and Saturday national holidays in honor of the pope's visit.

While in Paraguay, he will celebrate two Masses, including one in Caacupe, the center of Paraguayan spirituality. He'll also meet with President Horacio Cartes on Friday and with hundreds of local groups on Saturday.


3 p.m.

Bolivian President Evo Morales is settling the question of whether the 78-year-old Francis chewed coca leaves during the visit to cope with the altitude during his four-hour stop in Bolivia's capital, which has an altitude of 13,100 feet.

The leaf is the raw material for cocaine and Morales has been trying to get it off the international list of controlled narcotics because it is also widely chewed in the Andes as a mild stimulant.

Morales said in a Friday interview with The Associated Press that he gave the pope a wallet with coca leaves, but he apparently didn't use them.

But he says the pope did drink two cups of coca tea at the government palace.


2:50 p.m.

Evo Morales says he feels like he's got a good friend and ally in his battle for revolutionary social change and halting global warming: Pope Francis.

Bolivia's president says he thinks that what Pope Francis preaches amounts to socialism — though the pope himself insists he's not preaching any political doctrine.

In an interview Friday with The Associated Press, Morales referred to the pope as "the first and best politician in the world."

Francis has said several times that concern for the poor and marginalized is at the center of the Gospel, but has said Marxism is wrong.


1 p.m.

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