.- Leaders from across Latin America are praising the legacy and work of Pope John Paul II in the region and expressing gratitude for the fruits of his labors in each country. Mexican president Vicente Fox said, “The people of this country will always be faithful to the Mexican Pope.” Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva noted “the untiring struggle for human dignity led by the Pope.”
In Cuba, which the Pope visited in 1998, three days of mourning were officially proclaimed. “We always saw Pope John Paul II as a friend, someone concerned about the poor, who battled neoliberalism and fought for peace,” said Cuban chancellor Felipe Perez Roque. Cuban opposition leader Oswaldo Paya lamented the death of the Pope and noted his message of freedom in response to all forms of oppression.
Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela, said his government shares “the sorrow of the world for the death of the pilgrim Pope,” adding that his greatest legacy was “his constant struggle for peace.”
In Colombia, President Alvaro Uribe, participating in a public event, expressed surprise at the news of the Pope’s passing and asked those present to observe a minute of silence for the eternal repose of the Holy Father.
Bolivian president Carlos Mesa called the passing of John Paul II an enormous loss for humanity and decreed three days of national mourning, while thousands of Catholics gathered at parishes to offer prayers for the Pontiff who visited their country 17 years ago.
President Ricardo Lagos of Chile noted the Pope’s support for the Chilean people “in their aspirations for liberty and democracy” during the Pinochet era.
Argentina’s president, Nestor Kirchner, expressed sorrow at the Pope’s passing and noted his “capacity for meditation,” adding as well that the Pope helped prevent a war with Chile in 1978 over a border dispute. He also recalled the Pope’s closeness during “the most difficult and hardest times of the Falklands war” against Great Britain in 1982, when the Pope visited Argentina for the first time.
President Martin Torrijos of Panama said the death of the Pope “fills the people of Panama with great sorrow,” and in El Salvador a government statement lamented the “irreparable loss” represented by the Pope’s death.
President Lucio Gutierrez of Ecuador expressed his grief at “the loss of an historic figure who has left his mark and was an example of peace and solidarity for the world.”
Countries throughout the region decreed days of national mourning and Mass are being celebrated in memory of the Holy Father.