Pope Francis in Ecuador

Pope Francis Focuses on Family in Mass held in Guayaquil on Monday, July 6th.

by Christine Mazurk

I'm writing this post for my daughter-in-law, who is from Guayaquil, Ecuador. While she spent a wonderful fourth of July weekend with us in St. Augustine, FL - our son, beautiful granddaughter, and their Husky along as well - her family and friends were awaiting the arrival of the pope. We enjoyed beautiful days at the beach, home cooked meals, carousel rides with our little one, and a night of our favorite sushi to celebrate the kids' 10th Anniversary. Her mom and sister and several family members were camping out to see Pope Francis.  

The pope arrived in Quito on Sunday, then flew to Guayaquil, where an immense field in Samanes Park was prepared for Monday Mass. His decision to start his Latin American trip in Ecuador, a small country on a large continent, was reported to be an emphasis on the forgotten peripheries. It fueled national pride among the people of Ecuador. 

On Monday, Helicopters hovered above as the procession bearing the pope's white vehicle passed the spectators en route to the park - the setting for the huge outdoor Mass.  

Interestingly, Samanes Park is named after a tropical shade tree, but it offered no shade and no trees. Many people, my daughter-in-law's family and friends among them, had arrived before dawn, bringing small stools to sit on and umbrellas to ward off the sun. 

Standing above that huge field packed with thousands of followers, Pope Francis began Mass with FAMILY, a theme central to Catholic life. "In the heart of the family, no one is rejected. Everyone is worth the same." Shielded beneath a metal roof, the Pope spoke of the wedding feast of Cana - in which by biblical account, Jesus turned water from ablution jars into wine - a metaphor in which the wine symbolized happiness, love, and abundance. 

Francis's appearance was the centerpiece of a day that began with a brief visit to children, the elderly, and the disabled. After Mass, he traveled to a Jesuit school in the city, where he planned to have lunch and visit with an old friend before flying back to Quito. 

Decades earlier, as a Jesuit leader in Argentina, Francis (then Jorge Mario Bergoglio) befriended Francisco Cortes, a priest in Guayaquil known as Father Paquito, who taught at a local Jesuit college. For years, Francis sent his Argentine students to learn under Father Paquito, and the two men struck up a friendship. 

It's been 30 years since Father Francisco Cortes last saw his old friend, and he admitted in an interview that he was surprised the pope wanted to meet with him. Father Paquito, the 91-year-old Jesuit teacher, said he was fascinated to know why the pope remembers him? He never felt special, but here he is three decades later, receiving a visit from the pope. 

I'd love to be a fly on the wall to hear their conversation, wouldn't you? Pope Francis continues to amaze me, humble, close to the people, he seems to have their interests at heart. I plan to track the rest of his Latin America tour to hear the other messages he plans to share.

Our daughter-in-law was able to share in the experience through texts and face-time, a nice addition to our quiet time as FAMILY!! 

Until next week, Christine.  



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