Pope Francis tours South America
Pope Francis tours South America
Pope Francis' history-making South American excursion

Based on Reports Published between Fri Jul 10 18:40:44 2015 and Thu Jul 16 17:53:59 2015

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Information from Fri Jul 10 18:40:47 2015 :

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Pope Francis prays in front of the Virgin Mary statue at Caacupe church in Caacupe, outside of Asuncion, Paraguay, July 11, 2015.

The Pope meets faithfuls as he visits the San Gregorio Parish in Rome in April 2014. Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, have an audience with the Pope during their one-day visit to Rome in April 2014. Francis speaks with U. S. President Barack Obama, who visited the Vatican in March 2014. The Pope blesses the altar at Rome's Santa Sabina church as he celebrates Mass on Ash Wednesday in March 2014. Daniele De Sanctis, a 19-month-old child dressed up as a pope, is handed to Francis as the pontiff is driven through the crowd in St. Peter's Square in February 2014. Wind blows the papal skullcap off Pope Francis' head in February 2014. A lamb is placed around Francis' neck in January 2014 as he visits a living nativity scene staged at a church on the outskirts of Rome.

Pope Francis meets with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in the Vatican in December 2013. Benedict surprised the world by resigning "because of advanced age."

It was the second time during his trip to South America that Francis, the first pope from the region, used a major speech to excoriate unbridled capitalism and champion the rights of the poor. Pope Francis marked his 77th birthday in December 2013 by hosting homeless men to a Mass and a meal at the Vatican. One of the men brought his dog. Pope Francis embraced Vinicio Riva, a disfigured man who suffers from a non-infectious genetic disease, during a public audience at the Vatican in November 2013. Riva then buried his head in the Pope's chest.

People line the street where Pope Francis passes in his popemobile as he makes his way to the Leon Condu stadium for an event in Asuncion, Paraguay, Saturday, July 11, 2015. According to the Vatican, 1 million people turned out to see the Pope.

Francis frees a dove in May 2013 during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square.

Francis embraces a young boy with cerebral palsy in March 2013 -- a gesture that many took as a heartwarming token of the Pope's self-stated desire to "be close to the people."

The Pope washes the feet of juvenile offenders, including Muslim women, as part of Holy Thursday rituals in March 2013. The act commemorates Jesus' washing of the Apostles' feet during the Last Supper.

Francis stands at the reception desk of the Domus Internationalis Paulus VI residence, where he paid the bill for his stay during the conclave that would elect him leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics. Francis, formerly known as Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, was elected the Roman Catholic Church's 266th Pope in March 2013. The first pontiff from Latin America was also the first to take the name Francis.

With his penchant for crowd-pleasing and spontaneous acts of compassion, Pope Francis has earned high praise from fellow Catholics and others since he replaced Pope Benedict XVI in March 2013.

Pope Francis talks with Cuban President Raul Castro during a private audience at the Vatican on Sunday, May 10. Castro thanked the Pope for his role in brokering the rapprochement between Havana and Washington.

Morales also settled the question of whether the 78-year-old Francis, who only has one good lung, chewed coca leaves during the visit to cope with the altitude during his four-hour stop in La Paz. 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.

The Pope greets the crowd from St. Peter's Basilica following Easter Mass on Sunday, April 5. "I felt the presence of God and right then I decided I wanted to live," said Noella, now a 23-year-old university student who spent the night standing near the basilica in hopes of getting a look at Francis when he arrives.

Hindu priest Kurakkal SivaSri T. Mahadeva presents a shawl to Pope Francis in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on Tuesday, January 13.

The Pope attends the funeral of Cardinal Karl Josef Becker on Monday, February 16.

Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I address the faithful in Istanbul on Sunday, November 30.

Pope Francis speaks during the feast-day Mass while on a one-day trip to the Calabrian region of Italy in June 2014. The Pope spoke out against the Mafia's "adoration of evil and contempt for the common good," and declared that "mafiosi are excommunicated, not in communion with God."

A young boy hugs Francis as he delivers a speech in St. Peter's Square in October 2013. The boy, part of a group of children sitting around the stage, played around the Pope as the Pope continued his speech and occasionally patted the boy's head.

Francis has eschewed fancy cars. Here, Father Don Renzo Zocca, second from right, offers his white Renault 4L to the Pope during a meeting at the Vatican in September 2013. Francis has his picture taken inside St. Peter's Basilica with youths who came to Rome for a pilgrimage in August 2013.

Morales told the said the pope had no prior knowledge of the gift but "at no point got upset.

Many saw the move as the opening of a more tolerant era in the Catholic Church.

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Information from Sat Jul 11 01:41:06 2015 :
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He'll also meet with President Horacio Cartes on Friday and with hundreds of local groups on Saturday. 3 p. m.

After touring Banado Norte, Francis will celebrate an open-air Mass in a tropical field outside Asuncion and meet with young people before returning to Rome. On Friday, he 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. It was not the first time Francis has called on young people to shake things up, repeating a mantra he voiced in Brazil in 2013 when he urged youngsters to demand a more outward-looking Catholic Church. 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.

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

Asked if the pope is a socialist, Morales said his emphasis on creating a world in which no one is excluded amounts to socialism.

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.

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.

She accused authorities of "converting Bolivian justice into judicial terrorism directed at people of scarce economic resources who can't buy justice."

She said Bolivia's criminal justice system is based on lies, deceit and abuse of power.

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Information from Sat Jul 11 01:41:07 2015 :
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Bolivia's president also said Friday he thinks that what Pope Francis preaches amounts to socialism.

The leaf is sacred in Andean culture and has been used for centuries in religious rituals. On Sunday, he gave a greeting at Francis final Mass in Asuncion.

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

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

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. 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.

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.

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Information from Sat Jul 11 01:41:08 2015 :
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"Putting bread on the table, putting a roof over the heads of one's children, giving them health and an education - these are essential for human dignity, and business men and women, politicians, economists, must feel challenged in this regard," Francis told a gathering of business leaders, politicians, labor union leaders and other civil society groups. at Charlotte, said Francis is asking people to recognize harms that have come from capitalism, not seeking its eradication. "We shouldn't confuse criticism of capitalism automatically with socialism," Weeks said. "He's not advocating for the government to take over everything." State-run and allied Bolivian media have highlighted the similarities in the messages of Francis and Morales.

"I feel like now I have a pope.

The Jesuit priest Xavier Albo, a Bolivia-based anthropologist, says it is indicative of the discrimination native Guarani continue to face in Paraguay that so many Paraguayans speak a Guarani dialect yet would take offense at being called indigenous.

If I don't work, said Fernandez, the household doesn't eat. He's talking about community, about living in harmony." He's called Marxism wrong.

On Friday, as he awaited the departure of the pope's plane on the Santa Cruz airport tarmac, Morales chatted amiably with bishops with whom he has been at odds in the past. One Morales-Francis exchange did set Catholic social networks ablaze during the visit: Shortly after the pope arrived on Wednesday, Morales gave him a cross fashioned from a hammer and sickle, a classic communist symbol, patterned after one created by Luis Espinal, a leftist Jesuit priest slain in 1980.

I gave him a chuspita (alpaca wallet) with coca leaves inside in case he got altitude sickness. He drank two cups of coca tea at the government palace," said Morales, a former coca growers union leader.

"I asked him how he felt and he said he felt very good."

Associated Press writer Rachel Zoll contributed to this story from New York. "I feel like the pope is the first and best politician in the world," Bolivia's president said in an interview with The Associated Press a few hours before bidding Latin America's first pope goodbye. Francis made history on his two-day visit by apologizing before Bolivia's first indigenous president for the Catholic Church's "grave sins" in the subjugation of the Americas' native peoples in the name of God during the European conquests that began in the 15th and 16th centuries.

He also condemned, before a crowd of leftist activists invited by Morales' government for a World Summit of Social Movements, the "injustices" of a capitalist system that puts profits ahead of people and denies people basic rights of "land, lodging and labor."

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Information from Sat Jul 11 01:41:11 2015 :
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Pope Francis is getting a show on the tarmac of the airport in Asuncion, . 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.

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Information from Sat Jul 11 01:41:16 2015 :
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Lopez told The Associated Press that Paraguay's church had made history with the invitation, calling it "a baby step" but also a "huge (gesture) of tolerance for our organization."

Pope Francis has arrived at the Shrine of the Virgin of Caacupe, where he stood in silent prayer before a statue of the virgin, an icon of the Madonna that is very close to his heart.

The pope started the day in Santa Cruz, , where he listened on as inmates told their stories of how they ended up at Palmasola and of the "judicial terrorism" that lets the wealthy bribe their way to freedom while the poor languish in squalor. Two children of inmates sat at Francis' feet as he looked out to a mass of prisoners in central square of one of the prison's many walled wardens. "You may be asking yourselves 'Who is this man standing before us?'

Pope Francis has made a symbolic nod to Paraguay's main indigenous people by leading worshippers in reciting "The Lord's Prayer" in their Guarani language during a Mass celebrated at the Shrine of the Virgin of Caacupe. He has denounced the widespread abuse of pre-trial detention and called life sentences a "hidden death penalty." When he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio often visited the Villa 21 slum where many Paraguayan immigrants live, joining them in their religious processions and celebrating baptisms at their church, Our Lady of Miracles of Caacupe.

In his opening remarks in , Pope Francis is giving special praise to Paraguayan women. He is expressing his "profound admiration for the role played by the women of Paraguay in those dramatic historical moments.

As mothers, wives and widows, they shouldered the heaviest burdens." Francis is referring to a war in the 1860s against Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. During the War of the Triple Alliance, an estimated 60 percent of the country's population was wiped out.

Those losses included the vast majority of men, who had gone off to fight, leaving women to move Paraguay forward.

A lot of tears flowed among the inmates at the Buen Pastor women's prison where Pope Francis made a brief stop to hear its choir. The 50 women who serenaded the pope with a specially prepared song broke into tears when the people blessed them. The women inmates stuck inside, however, cried for a different reason Pope Francis' apology for the "grave sins" the Catholic Church committed against indigenous peoples in the Americas during the European conquest has been well-received by many native peoples across the continent.

But for Mayan activist Andrea Ixchiu in Guatemala it is pure marketing for the church, coming so many years after the fact. She thinks it's meant to prevent Catholics from leaving the faith in favor of Protestant evangelical sects. Ixchiu says the church should return to native peoples land it took from them.

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. "We built our neighborhoods piece by piece, we made them livable despite the difficulties of the terrain, the rising of the river and despite public authorities who either ignored us or were hostile to us," resident Maria Garcia told the pope.

"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."

Pope Francis is making a brief stop at the Buen Pastor women's prison in Paraguay, listening to a prison choir sing a song specially prepared for him. The visit isn't on the pope's official itinerary and the choir is serenading the pope outside the facility. 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.

He said Bolivian institutions need to address those ills. "Don't be afraid to help one another," he said.

"The devil is looking for rivalry, division, gangs."

Francis also urged prison officials and guards to rehabilitate prisoners and not humiliate them, saying prison should be a process of rehabilitation, not punishment.

Palmasola is the most notorious of Bolivia's 32 prisons, built to detain some 800 people but housing 5,000, more than four in five still awaiting trial. Inmates have the run of the place, drugs are cheaper than on the street and money buys survival.

Two years ago, 36 people died in a fierce battle between rival gangs using machetes and homemade flamethrowers.

She complained that prison administrators were "deaf" to their plight and failed to apply even the basics of Bolivian law.

Leonidas Rodriguez said he had watched "how they killed a companion and left him wrapped in a blanket.

No authority did anything about it."

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Information from Sat Jul 11 04:41:09 2015 :
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Francis met with President Horacio Cartes in the presidential palace and expressed his "profound admiration for the role played by the women of Paraguay in those dramatic historical moments.

Some Paraguayans are complaining that the driver of the popemobile had a heavy foot. Comments are circulating on social media that the popemobile went too fast, leaving Paraguayans who had waited for hours on Asuncion streets to see Pope Francis only a fleeting glimpse of the pontiff as he sped by. Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said the vehicle traveled at that speed because they did not want a repeat of the delays seen in Ecuador and Bolivia, and that the Asuncion's airport was a greater distance from the presidential palace than in other cities. Pope Francis has received from Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes a national soccer team jersey with the name "Papa Francisco" and a white wool manta woven in the region where Jesuit missionaries worked in the South American country during the colonial era.

"Gifts without problems," said Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi with a smile. Lombardi's comment was a joking reference to the "Communist crucifix," with a carved hammer and sickle, the pope received from Bolivian President . That gift clearly surprised the pope and led to raised eyebrows, though Bolivian officials denied the gift was a political maneuver.

It had been designed by a Jesuit activist.

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Information from Sat Jul 11 06:40:49 2015 :
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AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko) (The Associated Press) A group of people sing during a night vigil as they wait for the Mass to be celebrated by Pope Francis, in Caacupe, Paraguay, Friday, July 10, 2015.

When Marta Noella was a girl, she says she was frequently beaten by her strict father.

At 14, she was so depressed she planned to kill herself by stepping in front of a car. What happened next she attributes to a miracle from the Virgin of Caacupe, whose shrine is the most important pilgrimage site in The Caacupe shrine, which houses a little wooden statue of the Virgin Mary, is close to Francis' heart.

Hundreds of thousands are expected to attend.

On Friday night, tens of thousands had already arrived.

Many brought chairs and blankets, sitting and lying down in the square and along the street where Francis is to arrive.

Youth groups chanted "Pope Francis, Paraguay is with you!"

Elderly faithful periodically kneeled on the cement to pray.

During periodic bursts of rain, the faithful pulled out plastic ponchos and umbrellas, passing around sweets and sipping on mate tea to stay warm.

Maria Luisa Gonzalez, 54, sat with her husband and prayed.

She recounted how, when she was 8 years old, she had a terrible stomachache that persisted for a few weeks.

The day her parents decided to take her to a doctor, she saw a painting of the Virgin of Caacupe hanging on a street vendor's cart. "I immediately felt so much better that we didn't go to the appointment," she said.

"After that, I believed in the virgin's miracles, and I have been coming every year to give thanks since I was 15." Tradition has it that the virgin was carved by a Guarani man named Jose, by many accounts an early convert to Christianity around the beginning of the 17th century. Francis' Jesuit order and their Franciscan brothers were both evangelizing the region and created settlements that gave unusual autonomy to local indigenous people. He hid behind a tree and prayed to the virgin, promising to carve a statue of her out of it if he was not spotted.

His escape is considered the first of many miracles in what would become the religious center of this poor nation of 6.8 million sandwiched between Bolivia, Argentina and Brazil.

While Christianity is under siege by secularism and evangelicals in much of the hemisphere, Paraguay remains overwhelmingly Catholic.

Eighty-nine percent here profess the faith, according to the Pew Center.

The country's indigenous roots remain powerful as well. Even wealthy Paraguayans of European lineage take pride in speaking Guarani, and Francis is likely to emulate the example of , who used that language to greet the faithful in 1988, the last time a pope visited. For years, Francis has had a self-professed soft spot for Paraguay. Francis comments came just days after he issued a sweeping apology for the sins and "crimes" of the Catholic Church against the continent's indigenous peoples — an apology that received thunderous applause from a gathering of indigenous and civil groups in neighboring Bolivia.

He praised the Paraguayan women who were so critical to the country's recovery from a regional war in the 1860s that wiped out more than half of the population, most of it male.

He encouraged Paraguay's moves toward a stable democracy and economic growth after the violent 1954-1989 dictatorship of Alfredo Stroessner.

His message on Saturday is expected to be more pastoral, joining the thousands of pilgrims who travel to Caacupe each year to pray before the icon of the Madonna.

He may see some familiar faces: Some 200 Villa 21 residents travelled days by bus to greet their former pastor at the Caacupe shrine so dear to them both. "There are kids, adults, families," the trip organizer, the Rev. Lorenzo de Vedia, said in Buenos Aires earlier this week. "The pope is someone who is very loved here, for the people of the villa he's one of them because we shared first communions, confirmations, baptisms." Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi confirmed that Francis insisted on going to Caacupe "because he has this personal connection to the Virgin of Caacupe thanks to his pastoral work" in Buenos Aires.

For faithful braving the cold Friday night, that Francis chose to come to Paraguay was a blessing.

"I want to see the pope, and I hope to live a miracle."

Winfield reported from Asuncion, Paraguay.

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Information from Sat Jul 11 15:41:49 2015 :
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Pope Francis is taking his recycling mantra to a new level by traveling around Paraguay's capital in the same white Peugeot that St. John Paul II used when he visited in 1988.

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. Paraguayans erupted in cheers Saturday outside the Acosta Nu pediatric hospital when Francis' unusual motorcade pulled up for his first event of the day. Francis long has insisted on traveling in compact cars rather than fancy limousines or armored popemobiles, part of his simple style and insistence that priests aren't princes but servants.

He uses a Ford Focus to get around the Vatican, and he endeared himself in when he zipped around town in a Kia. Thousands of Argentines have traveled north for to be with the Argentina-born pope for his first big event in Paraguay: a Mass at the shrine that is the country's most important pilgrimage site and a place close to Francis' heart.

Argentina's blue and white national colors were ubiquitous at Caacupe on Saturday.

One featured the mantra "Estamos Haciendo Lio" (We're making a mess") emblazoned on it.

It's a reference to a call Francis made during a 2013 trip to

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Information from Sat Jul 11 16:41:51 2015 :
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"Francis loved Paraguayans and we do too," said Carmen Mesa, 56, who along with a half dozen other Argentines made a pilgrimage on foot from Clorinda, , to Caacupe for the Mass.

"Argentina is his homeland. He is not coming home yet, so we brought it to him." Mesa's group carried on their shoulders a statue of Our Lady of Lujan, the patron saint of Argentina.

"Faith unites borders. And we wanted to unite the virgins," she said of the Caacupe and Lujan virgins.

Francis decided to skip Argentina on his South American pilgrimage, not wanting to get involved in the country's upcoming presidential election. He plans to address hundreds of thousands of young people waiting for him at a venue along the banks of the He did fly through Argentine airspace en route from Bolivia to as they waited for the pontiff to arrive Saturday. Pope Francis received a very Argentine welcome Saturday at Paraguay's most important pilgrimage site, where thousands of his countrymen joined hundreds of thousands of Paraguayan faithful for a Mass that seemed poised to become a makeshift homecoming for the Argentine pope.

Argentina's blue and white flag and its national team soccer jersey were ubiquitous among the tens of thousands of mate-sipping faithful who packed the main square at Caacupe, which houses a little wooden statue of the Virgin Mary that is close to Francis' heart.

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Information from Sat Jul 11 17:41:54 2015 :
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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 . The pharmaceutical salesman traveled with his wife and four children from Tucuman, Argentina.

Barrionuevo said pride over Pope Francis is not just a matter of sharing a common homeland. 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. Barrionuevo said the family also planned to attend Sunday's Mass at the Nu Guazu, a field inside a military base where John Paul II canonized St. Roque Gonzalez in 1988. Gonzalez was a Jesuit missionary to the native Guarani in the 16th and 17th centuries in what would become Paraguay.

After a moment of prayer, he approached the base of the statue, placed his hand on it, and left a white rose to the applause of the few people gathered in the basilica. Tens of thousands of people, including Francis' Argentine countrymen, have packed the plaza outside the basilica for his first Mass in Paraguay.

Standing on the corner of the plaza of the shrine of the Virgin of Caacupe was Santa Cristina Rodriguez. The woman said she survives by recycling plastic and doing other odd jobs. Rodriguez said through a smile that showed only a few teeth: "The pope loves the poor and I am very poor" She said Paraguayans are hard-working, but there are no jobs. There are believers who credit the Virgin of Caacupe with miracles.

Carmen Mesa is one.

She was among the Argentines who arrived on foot from Clorinda, Argentina, just across the Paraguay River.

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Information from Sat Jul 11 18:41:56 2015 :
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and as pope, Francis frequently has praised the strength of Paraguay's women, saying they should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their fortitude and faith. He then spoke affectionately about the women of this tiny, poor and land-locked nation, praising them for rebuilding the country after a devastating war in the 1860s wiped out more than half the population, primarily men.

"Then and now, you found the strength not to let this land lose its bearings," he said to wild cheers from the crowd.

"God bless your perseverance.

God bless and encourage your faith.

The Mass being celebrated at Paraguay's shrine to the Virgin of Caacupe has featured several readings in the native Guarani language, including the story of Adam and Eve from Genesis. Guarani is an official language in , alongside Spanish, and is unique among indigenous languages in the Americas in that it is the only native tongue whose speakers include a large proportion of non-indigenous people. In other words, it didn't just survive after colonization, but thrived. The Guarani extend from Paraguay north to Brazil and are among native South American peoples who have most been subjected to servitude by ranchers and plantation owners. Paraguay's 6.6 million people include 110,000 indigenous people, by official count, divided among 20 ethnicities. They are disproportionately poor, having been marginalized by deforestation to clear land for ranching and soy production. "I would like especially to mention you, the women, wives and mothers of Paraguay, who at great cost and sacrifice were able to lift up a country defeated, devastated and laid low by war," the pontiff said.

Pope Francis received a very Argentine welcome Saturday at Paraguay's most important pilgrimage site, with thousands of his countrymen joining hundreds of thousands of Paraguayan faithful for a Mass that served as a makeshift homecoming for the Argentine pope.

Argentina's blue and white flag and its national team soccer jersey were ubiquitous among the mate tea-sipping faithful who packed the main square and streets surrounding it at Caacupe, which houses a little wooden statue of the Virgin Mary that is close to Francis' heart. But by the time the Mass began, a brilliant sun was shining under blue skies, rewarding those who had traveled from near and far to see Francis. "We wanted to come to Caacupe because Francis always talked about it when he was in Argentina," said Jose Demetrio Barrionuevo, 50, who came with his wife and four children from Tucuman, Argentina. with the kids aged 8 to 18 sporting national team jerseys planned to attend Francis' final Mass on Sunday at a military base in Asuncion as well.

"We don't want young weaklings.

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Information from Sat Jul 11 20:41:35 2015 :
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Thousands of Argentines crossed the border to see their native son, nearing the end of a "homecoming" tour of South America in which he has urged the downtrodden to change the world economic order, warned of irreversible harm to the planet and walked among prisoners.

Francis visited a children's hospital in the capital Asuncion before moving to Caacupe, about 60 km southeast. At the end of the Mass, officials announced that Francis had designated the Caacupe sanctuary as a minor basilica, giving it an elevated status that signals its connection to Rome and its importance for the local church. Francis said in outlining his vision of the church.

"We can endure hunger, cold and rain because faith protects us from everything." Large crowds lined the roads leading to the basilica that houses the statue, among them Argentines who waved the country's blue and white colors. Some held up a banner reading "Estamos Haciendo Lio" (We're making a mess"), a reference to Francis telling Argentine young people during his visit to Brazil in 2013 to go back to their country and shake things up.

Saturday's mass before hundreds of thousands of worshippers was slightly delayed after the pope was "overcome with emotion", a bishop said.

The pope on Friday urged Paraguay to consolidate democracy and end corruption and drug trafficking. Authorities estimate that about 15,000 families there live in extreme poverty, periodically exacerbated when heavy rains burst the banks of the nearby Paraguay River, turning dirt roads to impassable pools of mud. Pope Francis waves to a crowd of faithful after making a brief stop outside the women's jail 'Good Pastor' (Buen Pastor) where a choir of inmates sang to him, in Asuncion, Paraguay, July 10, 2015. Pope Francis (L) addresses the audience while looking at Paraguay's President Horacio Cartes (R) at the presidential palace in Asuncion, Paraguay, July 10, 2015.

An image of Pope Francis is seen at Caacupe church in Caacupe, outside of Asuncion, Paraguay, July 11, 2015. People wait for the arrival of Pope Francis to visit the Virgin Mary statue at Caacupe church in Caacupe, outside of Asuncion, Paraguay, July 11, 2015. More than half of Paraguayan men were killed in the Paraguayan War of 1864-1870, one of the bloodiest in Latin American history, which Paraguay fought against an alliance of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay.

Caacupe is famous for a shrine housing a statue of the Madonna said to have been carved by a Guarani convert to Christianity in the 16th century, when missionaries set up in the area. According to tradition, the Guarani man, a carpenter, hid in a tree trunk to escape warriors from the rival Mbayaea tribe who were killing converts and later carved the statue in gratitude for surviving. Devotees believe the statue to be miraculous because it survived a flood in the 17th century.

"I hope Francis brings us some blessing, especially for our government, so that it put an end to corruption which takes its toll on the humble and the poor," said Elisa Vazquez, who traveled 400 km to see the pope.

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Information from Sat Jul 11 21:42:02 2015 :
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The Jesuit order to which Francis belongs had a long history of protecting the Guarani from servitude and what some call "cultural genocide" during colonial times and helped to preserve their language. A Jesuit priest, Antonio Ruiz de Montoya, published the first Guarani grammar in 1639. linguist, Miguel Angel Veron, says a friar wrote a Guarani-language catechism in 1588. Guarani are currently spread among eight countries including , Bolivia and Brazil.

Their numbers are disputed.

In 2002, the national census put the Guarani population at 89,000.

The government now says there are 30,000 12:25 p. m.

Pope Francis has given the world its newest basilica: At the end of his Mass Saturday at the Sanctuary of the Virgin of Caacupe, Paraguay's most important pilgrimage site, officials read aloud a Vatican decree declaring the site a minor basilica. Francis has long had a soft spot for the Caacupe icon of the Madonna, stemming from his days ministering to Paraguayan immigrants in the slums of Buenos Aires. The 1989 Vatican document that outlines how basilicas are designated says the sites must enjoy a certain renown in the diocese, "stand out as a center of active and pastoral liturgy" that others can look to as a model, and must have historical value or importance.

Once designated, a basilica must celebrate certain liturgical feasts and can use the papal symbol of the "crossed keys" on banners and furnishings in a sign of its connection to Rome.

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Information from Sat Jul 11 22:42:04 2015 :
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While celebrating Mass on Saturday in Caacupe, Francis lauded the strength and religious fervor of Paraguayan women while visiting the country's most important pilgrimage site.

"We are the ones in church every Sunday. We pray every day, much more than men."

The gathering at the Sanctuary of the Virgin of Caacupe was evidence of Francis' special affection for the revered image of the Virgin Mary. He declared the simple church, which houses a little wooden statue of the virgin, the world's newest basilica.

In a deeply symbolic nod to the region's indigenous people, Francis led the faithful in "The Lord's Prayer" in Guarani. His arms outstretched at the altar, Francis read along as the crowd intoned the prayer.

Thousands of people packed the main square and nearby streets at Caacupe.

Argentina's blue and white flag and its national team soccer jersey were ubiquitous among the mate tea-sipping faithful.

The Argentines who traveled to Paraguay to see their pope know well of his long-term love affair with their northern neighbor.

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Information from Sat Jul 11 23:42:07 2015 :
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Pope Francis has used a long-scheduled lunch break to make an impromptu and moving stop at a religious clinic for the terminally ill poor. The Italian Rev. Aldo Trentto is director of the Fundacion San Rafael clinic.

He fought back tears as he recounted how emotional the visit was for patients. The clinic is less than three miles from the Vatican embassy where Francis is staying and houses 100 patients.

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Information from Sun Jul 12 01:42:13 2015 :
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The Argentine Jesuit praised the Jesuit "reductions," as the missions were known in Paraguay, as an almost utopian social and economic experiment — one that was immortalized in the 1986 film "The Mission."

He said Saturday they were "one of the most important experiences of evangelization and social organization in history." "There the Gospel was the soul and the life of communities which did not know hunger, unemployment, illiteracy or oppression," he said. "Where there is love of people and a willingness to serve them, it is possible to create the conditions necessary for everyone to have access to basic goods, so that no one goes without," he said.

Francis is balancing out his apology for the crimes the Catholic Church committed against indigenous during the colonial-era conquest of the Americas with high praise for the Jesuit missions in Paraguay that brought Christianity, European-style education and economic organization to the Guarani Indians.

His husband called it a huge gesture of tolerance.

Simon Cazal, the executive director of SomosGay, was invited by Paraguay's bishops' conference. Cazal is legally married to an Argentine, Sergio Lopez, though their union isn't recognized in .

Pope Francis opposes gay marriage in line with church teaching, which says marriage is a union between a man and a woman. As archbishop of Buenos Aires, he tried unsuccessfully to prevent Argentina from becoming the first country in to legalize gay marriage. However, as pope he has also showed great openness to gays, advocating a church that ministers to everyone without judgment.

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Information from Sun Jul 12 02:42:13 2015 :
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ASUNCION Pope Francis appealed to world leaders on Saturday to seek a new economic model to help the poor, and to shun policies that "sacrifice human lives on the altar of money and profit."

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez flew in to attend the mass and greeted Francis at the altar at the end of the service. He has also warned of irreparable damage to the planet. "Putting bread on the table, putting a roof over the heads of one's children, giving them health and an education, these are essential for human dignity," he said.

He urged politicians and business leaders "not to yield to an economic model which is idolatrous, which needs to sacrifice human lives on the altar of money and profit." He said those charged with promoting economic development must ensure it had "a human face" and he blasted "the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose".

"Corruption is the plague, it's the gangrene of society," he added during a heavily improvised speech at the rally, attended by Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes.

In a rare occurrence, the leader of a gay rights group took part in the gathering of 4,000 people at the invitation of local Catholic bishops. But Simon Cazal told The Associated Press after Saturday night's event that he accepted the Paraguayan bishops' conference's invitation because he doesn't think the Catholic Church will use his attendance for publicity purposes. The Catholic Church teaches that homosexual tendencies are not sinful but homosexual acts are. Saturday was believed to be the first time a gay rights activist was known to have been invited to attend an event during a papal trip. One theme of a major meeting of Catholic bishops at the Vatican in October will be how the Church can reach out to homosexual Catholics.

The pope made reference to abducted officer Edelio Morinigo on Saturday evening at a meeting with civil society groups.

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Information from Sun Jul 12 02:42:15 2015 :
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The Paraguayan gay rights activists who attended a gathering that Pope Francis held with 1,600 members of so-called civil society says some in his own movement thought he should have skipped it.

Cazal is executive director of SomosGay. He noted with satisfaction Francis' statement that people's richness is in their diversity and no one should be excluded from anything.

Cazal told AP he hopes Paraguay's government is listening.

The church and the pope oppose gay marriage. To them, marriage can only be between a man and a woman. Cazal is married to an Argentine.

Their union is not recognized by .

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Information from Sun Jul 12 06:42:46 2015 :
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ASUNCION, Paraguay — Pope Francis is balancing out his apology for the crimes the Catholic Church committed against indigenous during the colonial-era conquest of the Americas with high praise for the Jesuit missions in Paraguay that brought Christianity and European-style education and economic organization to the natives. The Jesuits founded the Paraguay missions in the 17th and 18th century as an alternative to the colonial encomienda system, in which Spain's king granted land in conquered territories to those who settled there, who then had indigenous peoples live there and work the land. The missions were relatively autonomous from Spanish rulers — intentionally so to protect the Guarani from the abuses of the encomienda leaders who wanted them as a source of labor. The missions were well defended The missions were well defended — the Jesuits created a Guarani militia — and were economically successful, with the Jesuits teaching the Guarani to have both individual and communal property to provide for families who couldn't provide for themselves, according to "The Jesuits in Latin America: 1549-2000," a history of the order on the continent written by the Jesuit historian, the Rev. Jeffrey Klaiber. Unlike missions elsewhere in the Americas, where indigenous rebellions against the missionaries were rife, there were no such rebellions by the Guarani in Paraguay, Klaiber wrote.

Francis cited the Paraguayan mission experience as an example of the type of economic and social system that looks out for the common good rather than individual interests, and creates an inclusive society where the poor aren't left on the margins. It's the type of a financial system that he has been calling for repeatedly to correct the "perverse" global financial system today, and especially on his three-nation South American pilgrimage. "It seems to be a contradiction, but it's the best illustration to understand what happened a long time ago."

By contrast, Francis' comments Saturday about the Jesuit missions were met with silence by a similar gathering of indigenous and non-governmental groups in Paraguay.

Ricardo Pavetti, a member of the Academy of Paraguayan History, said the Jesuits were eventually expelled by the Spanish from Paraguay in the mid-18th century precisely because the missions were so economically and militarily successful. He said the missions were hardly democratic and were at times "despotic," but that the Jesuit missionaries were highly capable men who taught the natives trades and how to read and write.

Franciscan monks pray during Pope Francis' Mass at the Shrine of the Virgin of Caacupe, in Caacupe, Paraguay, Saturday, July 11, 2015. The shrine is the country s most important pilgrimage site and a place that is very close to Francis' heart.

AP Photo/Jorge Saenz) (The Associated Press) A live image of Pope Francis plays on a monitor during evening prayers at the Metropolitan Cathedral in Asuncion, Paraguay, Saturday, July 11, 2015. Francis is in Paraguay for three days, the last stop of his South American tour.

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Information from Sun Jul 12 06:42:47 2015 :
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Pope Francis put into practice his call for the world's poor and powerless to not be left on the margins of society by visiting a flood-prone slum Sunday and insisting that the Catholic Church be a place of welcome for all Francis has spent much of the past week - and before that much of his pontificate - railing about the injustices of the global capitalist system that he says idolizes money over people, demanding instead a new economic model where the Earth's resources are distributed equally among all.

In Banado Norte on Sunday, Francis will see people living in shacks made of plywood and corrugated metal, and quite possibly pigs rummaging through garbage searching for leftovers.

"I ask them not to yield to an economic model which is idolatrous, which needs to sacrifice human lives on the altar of money and profit."

The pontiff is in Paraguay for three days, the last stop of his South American tour.

AP Photo/Cesar Olmedo) (The Associated Press) Dancers perform for Pope Francis, top, as he meets with representatives of civil society at the San Jose school stadium in Asuncion, Paraguay, Saturday, July 11, 2015. Pope Francis hugs a dancer who played the role of St. Francis during the pope's meeting with representatives of civil society inside the San Jose school stadium in Asuncion, Paraguay, Saturday, July 11, 2015. AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia) (The Associated Press) The bell and clock tower at the Metropolitan Cathedral are illuminated in blue during evening prayers with Pope Francis at the temple in Asuncion, Paraguay, Saturday, July 11, 2015.

Thousands of people packed the main square and nearby streets in Caacupe, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) east of Asuncion.

River, turning dirt roads to impassable pools of mud.

For weeks, residents in the area and authorities have been preparing for the visit, doing everything from draining some of the roads to making rosaries to give the pope as gifts.

But Francis is expected to offer them his solidarity and encouragement, after having urged their leaders to do more to take their plight into account in making decisions about development and social welfare.

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Information from Sun Jul 12 16:43:28 2015 :
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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.

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, . She's seated with Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes.

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

Among those waiting for the pope in Banado Norte at the St. John the Baptist chapel was 82-year-old widow Francisca de Chamorro.

Her rudimentary wooden home sits right behind it. "Now I can die in peace," she said. Chamorro said that if the pope had visited this time last year he'd be wading through floodwater.

People waited for the pope on a soccer pitch.

The church had asked people not to hang banners, but big placards were on display demanding land titles.

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

Pope Francis begins the last day of a weeklong South American tour on Sunday with a stop in an Asuncion slum that borders the Paraguay river that frequently floods it and makes its dirt roads impassable pools of mud.

The barrio's name is Banado (Ban-YA-doh) Norte. Banado means "bathed."

One in four Paraguayans live under the poverty line and the U. N. ranks the country in the world's top fifth in income inequality. The pope has spent much of the past week railing about the injustices of the global capitalist system, demanding a new economic model in which the Earth's resources are distributed equally among all. In Banado Norte, people live in shacks of plywood and corrugated metal.

Pigs rummage through garbage for leftovers.

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Information from Sun Jul 12 17:43:40 2015 :
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On the final day before flying off to Rome, Francis sought to offer a message of hope to the residents of the Banado Norte shantytown and to an estimated 1 million people gathered for his farewell Mass on the same swampy field where St. John Paul II proclaimed Paraguay's first saint nearly 30 years ago.

"How much pain can be soothed, how much despair can be allayed in a place where we feel at home!" The stage for the Mass was a remarkable sight: A huge triptych with the pope's Jesuit IHS insignia over the central altar, flanked by images of his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, on one side and the founder of his Jesuit religious order, St. Ignatius Loyola, on the other. The entire structure was a mosaic made out of 40,000 ears of corn, 200,000 coconuts, 1,000 squash gourds and many, many dried beans.

Francis has emphasized care for creation and its most oppressed people during his tour of , Many residents of Banado Norte are squatters on municipal land who have come from rural areas in the northeastern part of the country where farmland has been increasingly bought up by Brazilians and multi-national companies. Some of the estimated 100,000 residents shrieked as Francis walked by, reaching out to touch his white cassock and snap a photo with their cellphones.

"Now I can die peacefully," said Francisca de Chamorra, an 82-year-old widow who moved to the shanty in 1952.

"It's a miracle that a pope has come to this muddy place."

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. 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."

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.

Until 2013, he used a horse.

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.

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Information from Sun Jul 12 18:43:42 2015 :
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there have been complaints that the popemobile has moved too fast for people to get a good look at the pontiff. There were also complaints about church authorities only permitting five people to ask questions of the pope Saturday evening. Now, residents of the Banado Norte slum are sounding off. Neighborhood association President Francisco Rodriguez says his wife and a neighbor were not invited to sit with the pope despite being co-founders of the chapel where the gathering was held.

When Lafuente walked onto the stage people heckled her in Guarani, shouting "Lying Minister."

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Information from Sun Jul 12 19:43:41 2015 :
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Earlier on Sunday the pope heard harrowing tales of life in a flood-prone shantytown and appealed to the slum dwellers, many of whom had been forced from their farms and now squat on city land, to stay united in their struggle for better living and working conditions.

The Argentine pontiff has made defending the poor a major theme of his "homecoming" trip, which also took him to Ecuador and Bolivia, ranked among Latin America's poorest countries.

In Banado Norte, murals adorned the walls of houses made of corrugated metal, wood and cement blocks. One of them read: "Yes to life, no to drugs, fight for change."

"It's been a tough fight to put up a home in the midst of hardship, but we never gave in nor let ourselves be swept away by sadness."

From Banado Norte, the pope went to hold a mass for more than a million people in a disused air base. The altar's backdrop was designed by a local artist who used corn cobs, coconuts, squashes, beans, seeds and other local produce to create huge murals of St. Francis of Assisi, from whom the pope took his name, and St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, the religious order to which he belongs. Pope Francis waves as he arrives to visit the Banado Norte neighborhood in Asuncion, Paraguay, July 12, 2015. Pope Francis is greeted by faithfuls during his visit to the Banado Norte neighborhood in Asuncion, Paraguay, July 12, 2015. Francis looked moved as he heard harrowing tales of life in Banado Norte, a warren of shacks not far from downtown Asuncion that are home to about 100,000 people, many of whom are squatting on city land after being forced from their farms. "Our expulsion from the countryside, the high prices of land and housing in the city, coupled with low incomes ... are the reasons we find ourselves in the 'Banado'," Maria Garcia, a local organizer, told him from a platform before thousands of fellow residents.

All of them want title deeds to their homes.

Don't let the devil divide you," noting that "a faith without solidarity is a dead faith".

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Information from Sun Jul 12 21:43:50 2015 :
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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.

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

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 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. 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.

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. 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. An Associated Press review found that during his decade as bishop, Livieres Plano made many questionable spending decisions.

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.

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Information from Sun Jul 12 23:44:03 2015 :
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Pope Francis is arriving to the final event of his three-country tour in South America. After the meeting, the pope is scheduled to say a prayer at the site of a supermarket fire that killed hundreds in 2004.

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Information from Mon Jul 13 00:44:23 2015 :
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At the last stop of his South American trip, three young people have given Pope Francis very personal testimonies about their lives, which haven't been easy.

The pope was particularly moved by the story told by 25-year-old Liz Fretes.

She says her mother lost her cognitive faculties and "became like a child." Their roles were reversed: Fretes became the caregiver, having to change her mother's diapers, bathe her and play with her as if with a child. Fretes thought she would never be able to make something of herself. But someone paid for her studies and she is now a nurse.

She cared for her mother and her grandmother by day and went to school at night. Fretes said she understands that her mother's illness has made her stronger.

After she spoke, the pope blessed her, kissed her forehead and hugged her.

The two exchanged words privately.

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Information from Mon Jul 13 01:44:23 2015 :
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country tour of South America, on Sunday urged tens of thousands of youths in Paraguay to look after their less fortunate peers and fight for a dignified life filled with hope and strength.

"They wrote a speech for me to give you. "Make a mess, but then also help to tidy it up. A mess which gives us a free heart, a mess which gives us solidarity, a mess which gives us hope."

We do not want young people who tire quickly, who live life worn out with faces of boredom.

Pope Francis (2nd L) arrives to lead a mass in Asuncion, Paraguay, July 12, 2015.

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Information from Mon Jul 13 02:44:27 2015 :
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Francis ended his South American pilgrimage with a huge Mass and words of hope and faith for young and old.

But the political, anti-capitalist message he left behind may have a more lasting punch.

Then he outlined his vision of the church: "Welcoming those who do not think as we do, who do not have faith or who have lost it.

Welcoming the different cultures, of which our Earth is so richly blessed.

Welcoming sinners."

Pope Francis is on his way back to Rome. The pontiff's flight took off from Asuncion, , after a goodbye ceremony at the airport. His overnight flight on Air Italia is scheduled to land in Rome early Monday afternoon. This was Francis' first tour of Spanish-speaking South America since the Argentine-born priest became pope in 2013.

"The mess that young people make, we then have to clean it up ourselves!"

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