NNA – Pope Francis departed Paraguay for Rome late Sunday, bringing to a close a weeklong visit where he drew attention to the poor and marginalized in some of the region’s poorest nations.
After also visiting Ecuador and Bolivia, delivering some two dozen speeches and saying several masses, the 78-year-old pope and the Vatican’s delegation boarded an Airbus A330 in Asuncion and left the country.
His three-country visit centered around speaking out against poverty, inequality and corruption. He also made numerous historical pronouncements and railed against ideologies.
One of his last stops at a Paraguay slum underlined his show of support for some of the most destitute communities in already poor countries.
While Paraguay, a nation of some seven million people, has seen rapid growth in recent years, 40 percent of the population remains mired in poverty.
The community the pope visited, Banado Norte in the capital Asuncion, is where many residents ended up living there after being displaced by corporate agricultural land buys in other parts of the country.
Residents of Banado Norte are technically squatting on municipal land but want the right to stay. The pope appeared to directly address the issue.
“I couldn’t be with you without being on your land. Your land,” he emphasized.
The pontiff stopped at several homes to visit with and bless families living there.
“I shuddered for a moment and got goose bumps and did not know what to say,” said Carmen Sanchez, 50, who had prepared some traditional food.
Neighbor Silvia Sanchez told AFP: “I just hope that after this visit, the government will provide the assistance needed here.”
The conclusion of the pope’s visit was thrown into confusion when a crowd surged toward his vehicle, preventing him from making a stop to hold a ceremony with the relatives of 400 people killed in a fire in 2004.
The pope said a blessing at the damaged building instead and continued to the airport.–AFP