The flag of Ecuador with Pope Francis in the background upon his arrival in the country on July 5, 2015_Credit _ L'Osservatore Romano_CNA 7-5-15

Pope Francis is visiting Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay July 5-13. Here are five challenge the Pope will address on his trip, according to Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

1. His longest trip


This is the Pope’s ninth international trip since his election, and his longest so far.

It is a 13-hour trip to get to Quito, Ecuador and almost another 13 hours for the flight from Asunción, Paraguay back to Rome. During his visit to the three Latin American countries, the Pope will change planes 13 times and will speak on 22 different occasions.

On top of all this is the change in temperature from place to place and the extremely high altitude that the pontiff will have to deal with when he arrives at the El Alto International Airport in Bolivia. The city is located near the capital La Paz and is at an altitude of 13,320 feet. The conditions are so difficult that Pope Francis hardly has any events scheduled in the capital and will spend most of his time in Santa Cruz de la Sierra where the elevation is 1,365 feet.

2. Latin America, a Continent of Hope

In his interview with the Vatican Television Center, the Secretary of State recalled the Pope’s words at Saint Peter’s Basilica last December 12 during the Mass for the Solemnity of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The Pope took up the famous expression of his predecessor, Saint John Paul II, who described Latin America as the “continent of hope.”

“Why the continent of hope? Because Latin America is looking to new models of development that join together Christian tradition and civil progress, justice and fairness along with reconciliation, scientific and technological development with human wisdom, suffering that bears fruit with joyful hope,” the Pope said.

3. In Ecuador: the defense of life and the family


One of the issues the pontiff will tackle in his visit to this country is the defense of life and the family. Cardinal Parolin stated that “the Church continues to play a prophetic role in the face of what the Pope himself has called ‘ideological colonization’.” Regarding this, “the family and life” are the “main fronts on which this ideological colonization is trying to be imposed.”

In view of this situation, “the Church must continue to preach the Gospel, which has good news for the family and for life.” This is also “the task for the Church in Ecuador.” The cardinal stated that “the Church is only asking for the possibility of carrying out her own mission, which contributes to the good of society, to the democratic debate, to promoting the welfare of every human being and especially the most vulnerable groups.”

4. In Bolivia: defending creation and promoting the welfare of the poor and marginalized

The Holy Father will call on this Andean country to “take of care of creation, of our ‘common home’ that is the earth,” the cardinal said.

But he will also give an exhortation “for social justice, to search for a peace that is respectful of everyone’s rights,” as well as “a society that is more inclusive of the poor, the fight against extreme forms of poverty so the dignity of every person is recognized; and also to respect the country’s cultural identity against this tendency towards globalization which makes everything uniform.” The Pope will also call on his listeners to “avoid commercializing social relationships.”

5. In Paraguay: the defense and advancement of the family

This will be the last country Pope Francis will visit and there he will also make the family his main focus.  The cardinal explained that “whoever wants to stand with the Church in Paraguay in its catechetical and missionary journey” has to pay attention to this issue since the bishops’ “three year pastoral plan in centered above all on the family.”

The Secretary of State said that the Latin American family “maintains many values.” For example, in Paraguay family life is strong and they have many children.” In addition, “it’s one of the youngest countries in the world.”

While the country is committed on a constitutional level to respecting human life from beginning to end, challenges do exist, including single-parent families, unemployment and drugs.

Addressing all these issues, Cardinal Parolin said, “the Pope wants to be closely present to all of the families, especially all those that are suffering for those reasons. And he wants to be a catalyst for their continuing advancement.”