Pope's first South America stop: Ecuador's sanctuary of Divine Mercy

Pope's first South America stop: Ecuador's sanctuary of Divine Mercy

Pope Francis waves to pilgrims in Turkey, Istanbul, Nov. 29 2014. Credit: Nathalie Ritzmann/Aid to the Church in Need.
Pope Francis waves to pilgrims in Turkey, Istanbul, Nov. 29 2014. Credit: Nathalie Ritzmann/Aid to the Church in Need.

.- After arriving to Ecuador for his 10 day trip to South America, Pope Francis' first stop will be Guayaquil's Sanctuary of Divine Mercy – breaking with his usual custom of meeting the president first.

The second largest church in Guayaquil after the city's cathedral, the Sanctuary of Divine Mercy will be the Pope’s first destination after landing in Quito July 5.

He will likely meet Ecuador's authorities during the welcoming ceremony at the airport, however an official visit with the president, Rafael Correa, will not take place until after Francis spends the morning of July 6 visiting the sanctuary in Guayaquil and having lunch with the Jesuit Community at the Colegio Javier.

Although the move is not unprecedented, it's unusual for Francis, who has met with the president and local authorities before anyone else in each of the countries he’s landed in during trips abroad since his election.

The move demonstrates the continued emphasis the Pope places on the topic of mercy, which he has spoken of frequently since his election. The upcoming Jubilee for Mercy – which he declared in March – is set to begin Dec. 8.

Pope Francis first announced his plans to make two separate trips to South America during an in-flight news conference on his way back to Rome from the Philippines.

His plans to visit Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay this year were confirmed by the Vatican in April, and the trip will last from July 5-13. He will first stop in Ecuador before moving on to Bolivia, and finally Paraguay.

Another possible visit in 2016 or 2017 could include stops in Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Peru.

While in Ecuador July 5-8, the Pope is also set to meet with the country's bishops, as well as representatives of schools and universities at the Pontifical University of Ecuador.

He will also visit the Missionaries of Charity nursing home and will meet with priests, religious and seminarians at Quito's national Marian Shrine before heading to Bolivia the afternoon of July 8.

Once he lands at the El Alto airport in La Paz, the Pope will give an address during the welcoming ceremony, and afterward will head to the government palace to visit the president, Evo Morales.

Shortly after the Pope will leave for Santa Cruz de la Sierra, where he is scheduled to spend the remainder of his time in Bolivia.

On the 9th he will celebrate Mass and meet with Bolivia's men and women religious, after which he will participate in the World Meeting of Popular Movements. The next day Francis will visit the rehabilitation center of Palmasola, and meet with the country’s bishops before heading to Paraguay in the afternoon.

After arriving to the Silvio Pettirossi airport of Asuncion July 10, Pope Francis will pay a courtesy visit to the president, Horacio Cartes, and will then meet with authorities and the diplomatic corps.

The next morning the Pope is scheduled to visit a pediatric hospital, celebrate Mass and meet with members of civil society before bringing the day to a close with Vespers in the metropolitan cathedral of Our Lady of Asuncion.

Bishops, priests, deacons, men and women religious, seminarians and Catholic movements in Paraguay will join the Pope in the traditional evening prayer.

July 12 Francis will visit the people of Banado Norte before celebrating Mass and meeting with the country’s bishops in the Cultural Centre of the apostolic nunciature, where they will have lunch.

Pope Francis’ last meeting of the trip will be with youth at the Costanera riverside, after which he will leave for Rome. He is expected to arrive July 13 shortly before 2 p.m., and will likely make a stop by Rome’s basilica of Saint Mary Major on his way back to the Vatican.

Tags: Pope Francis, Ecuador, Pope Francis in South America