The Latest: Pope Arriving at His Final Event in Paraguay

Paraguay Pope South America

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


5:05 p.m.

Pope Francis is arriving to the final event of his three-country tour in South America.

He plans to address hundreds of thousands of young people waiting for him at a venue along the banks of the Paraguay River in Asuncion.

Paraguayan national flags and other banners are being waved and the crowd is particularly loud.

After the meeting, the pope is scheduled to say a prayer at the site of a supermarket fire that killed hundreds in 2004. Then he plans to fly back to Rome.


2:50 p.m.

The head of the Greek Orthodox Church in South America has had a privileged spot at Pope Francis' events this week.

Metropolitan Tarasios is an old friend of the pope's from Buenos Aires, where he is based.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said Sunday that Tarasios asked Francis if he might participate in the trip, and he traveled from Ecuador to Bolivia and to Paraguay on his own. On Sunday, he gave a greeting at Francis final Mass in Asuncion.

Lombardi said his presence "gave an ecumenical dimension to the trip, which otherwise wasn't very evident."

Indeed, Francis' pilgrimage has been notable for the absence of any meetings between the pope and leaders of other faiths — usually a mainstay of papal trips.

Francis has very friendly relations with the Orthodox Church; he recently cited the works of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in his encyclical on the environment.


2:25 p.m.

Pope Francis is starting to show the effects of his gruelling three-nation, week-long trip half-way across the world from Rome.

The 78-year-old Francis appeared to doze off a bit at the end of Mass on Sunday when the archbishop of Asuncion, Paraguay delivered a lengthy speech of thanks for his visit.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said it's only natural that Francis "isn't in the condition in which he left Rome" given his packed schedule.

Francis added to his official itinerary some impromptu visits on Saturday to a hospital and a Jesuit church and meetings with friends and family who came to Paraguay from Argentina.

But Lombardi says Francis tends to rally, especially when he's surrounded by the kind of young people who will be the focus of his final event Sunday.


2:10 p.m.

The head of public relations for the Paraguayan police says that as many as 1 million people have attended Pope Francis' outdoor Mass on Sunday.

Elisa Ledesma says the estimate comes from the agency's "experience and observation."

Ledesma adds that police officials in Caacupe, where a papal Mass was held on Saturday, say that about 1 million people attended that event and the procession to the nearby sanctuary of the Virgin of Caacupe.


2 p.m.

Pope Francis is meeting with Paraguayan bishops in a closed-door session.

One of the biggest issues in the Episcopal Conference relates to Francis' decision to oust a controversial bishop last year in Ciudad del Este, the country's second largest city that borders Brazil and Argentina. The Rev. Rogelio Livieres Plano was ousted in September.

A member of the conservative Opus Dei movement, Livieres Plano claimed shortly after his removal that he was persecuted by opposing bishops and liberal parishioners. Francis has never commented on the decision and Vatican officials have also said very little.

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