We owe a debt to the most vulnerable, says Pope

Mercy and faith have shaped Latin American culture for centuries, Pope Francis said on arriving in Ecuador on the first day of his July 5-12 tour of Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay, insisting that the Gospel continues to hold the key to our contemporary challenges.

Speaking after a 12-hour flight from Rome, the Pontiff took part in a brief welcoming ceremony at Quito's Mariscal Sucre Airport, where was greeted by dozens of children and young people dressed in a wide variety of traditional clothes, and told officials, bishops and special guests that his pastoral work before becoming pope had taken him to Ecuador several times. 

This time, he said, he had come “as a witness of God's mercy and of faith in Jesus Christ”.

Christian values, the Pope said, should motivate citizens to promote everyone’s full participation in their nation's social, political and economic life "so that the growth in progress and development already registered will ensure a better future for everyone, with particular concern for the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters to whom Latin America still owes a debt”.

Pointing to how Ecuador’s Mount Chimborazo is closer to outer space than anywhere in the world, he noted how it is known as the place “closest to the Sun”, recalling how Christians identify Christ with the Sun and associate the Moon with the Church, shining with reflected light, and reminded those present that “no one, save Jesus Christ, possesses his or her own light”. 

“From the peak of Chimborazo to the Pacific coast, from the Amazon rainforest to the Galapagos Islands, may you never lose the ability to thank God for what he has done and is doing for you,” he said, praying that those gathered should “ never lose the ability to protect what is small and simple, to care for your children and your elderly, to have confidence in the young and to be constantly struck by the nobility of your people and the singular beauty of your country”.

The first Mass of the visit took place the following day at Guayaquil, before a crowd estimated at more than a million people.