The Latest: Tens of Thousands Awaiting Pope in Paraguay

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


1 p.m.

Hours before Pope Francis is set to arrive, tens of thousands of people are lined up along an 8-mile (13-kilometer) stretch of road coming from the airport to downtown Asuncion. The pope is set to spend three days there for the last stop of his South America tour.

The Paraguay government 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.


11:45 a.m.

The Paraguay field where Pope Francis will celebrate the final Mass of his South American tour is cursed with serpents.

At least that's the warning from Paraguay's health ministry.

The Pope is due to celebrate Mass Sunday at the Nu Guasu site in a subtropical forest in Paraguay.

Health Minister Antonio Barrios says the area is a natural habitat for the reptiles. He says authorities have antivenom, but says the faithful should wear boots in any case.

Pope John Paul II celebrated a mass in this same place in 1988 under torrential rains.


11:40 a.m.

Bolivian police say they have detained three Chileans who wanted to deliver a letter to Pope Francis. The men are protesting the Pope's ordainment of a bishop in southern Chile who is accused of covering up for a pedophile priest.

Police held the three men for more than 14 hours in the city of Santa Cruz. The men say they missed a chance to ask Francis to reconsider naming the Rev. Juan Barros as bishop in the city of Osorno.

Barros is accused of covering up the sex abuse by crimes of the Rev. Fernando Karadima, whom the Vatican has sanctioned for abusing young boys.

The Pope's appointment of Barros has led to an unprecedented outcry by abuse victims and Catholic faithful in Chile.

A Vatican investigation found Karadima guilty in 2011 and sentenced the now 84-year-old priest to a cloistered life of "penitence and prayer." It remains Chile's highest-profile case of abuse by a priest.


10:55 a.m.

Pope Francis is urging inmates at Bolivia's notoriously violent Palmasola prison to not despair, leaving them with a message of hope and solidarity,

In his comments, Francis acknowledged the wretched conditions that the inmates face: overcrowding, the slow pace of justice, violence and few opportunities for education or rehabilitation. He said those need to be addressed by Bolivian institutions.

But he urged the inmates not to despair and to not let their suffering lead to violence.


10:50 a.m.

Three inmates are telling tell Pope Francis of the desperation inside Bolivia's most notorious prison and a corrupt and inept judiciary that sends many innocents to Palmasola Prison.

One inmate told of witnessing the murder of a fellow inmate. Another described his surprise on arriving at finding "so many people sleeping on the floor like animals." The prison built for 800 inmates has more than 5,000.

A female inmate described what she called judicial terrorism: Those who can't buy justice are condemned to suffer. She said Bolivia's criminal justice system is based on lies, deceit and abuse of power.

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