Pope Francis received a warm but windy welcome Sunday in Quito in his first stop on a three-nation South American tour. Francis, who is from Argentina, is the first Latin American pope.
In an exchange of speeches on the Quito airport tarmac, President Rafael Correa was able to support some his own political positions by quoting Francis, while the pope said it was good to be back in South America.
Following three days in Quito and Guayaquil, Francis will visit Bolivia and Paraguay. He will not stop in his native Argentina during the trip.
In addition to Correa and his wife, the Pope was welcomed by dozens of national and local dignitaries and hundreds of children. As he stepped out of the airplane following a 13-hour flight from Rome, a whipping wind promptly blew off his skull cap.
During his speech, Correa paraphrased the Pope’s positions on human rights, wealth redistribution, and the environment, prompting Francis to say that the president quoted him too much. For Correa, who has met the Pope twice before, it was a chance, indirectly, to bolster his policies of tax reform that have generated large protests in recent weeks.
During his welcome speech, Francis noted that the top of Ecuador’s Chimborazo volcano is the highest point on earth, and closest to heaven. Chimborazo beats out Mount Everest for the honor due to the bulge of the earth at the equator.
In addition to outdoor appearances expected to be attended by hundreds of thousands in Quito and Guayaquil, Francis will have a private reunion Monday with an old friend in Guayaquil. To see the story, click here.
During his nine-day trip, Francis will reach out to poor and indigenous communities, many of which still associate Catholicism with colonialism. He plans to visit inmates in Bolivia’s infamous Palmasola prison and tour Paraguay’s Banado Norte shantytown.
In addition to Ecuador, the Pope chose Paraguay and Bolivia because they are two of the poorest countries in Latin America. He has been given the title, “Pope of the poor.”